Repeat indefinite article: use a strawberry, <an> apple or <a> cranberry.

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silver lining

Member
French - Canada
Hi everyone,

I know it's common to use one definite article with multiple nouns: The strawberries, apples and cranberries were fresh. What happens when the nouns are introduced by an indefinite article? Can you use a single article ("a") to introduce a number of nouns, even though some of those nouns might require a different article ("an")? Is it incorrect to omit the articles in this case?

For this recipe, you may use a strawberry, apple or cranberry.
For this recipe, you may use a strawberry, an apple or a cranberry.


What happens when the elements are displayed in a vertical list?

For this recipe, you may use a:
- strawberry
- apple
- cranberry

For this recipe, you may use:
- a strawberry
- an apple
- a cranberry

Can all the items be preceded by a single introductory article?

Thank you for your help!
 
  • srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think that any of the ways you used is quite correct. For some reason, using the separate articles in your last vertical list looks a little overdone, maybe because the vertical list organization would be used to communicate in a way that is compact visually, and the sight of all of the articles spoils that effect. I'm sure you can find people who will find fault with any of your choices. I wouldn't take them seriously.
     
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    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I notice that in the 3rd edition of the American Heritage Dictionary (1992) the "full version" is used rather consistently when a series of nouns contains both forms of indefinite article but not otherwise. For example, from the entries for "accrue" and "adductor" respectively:
    .
    To come to one as a gain, an addition, or an increment.

    A muscle that draws a body part, such as a finger, an arm, or a toe, inward toward the median axis of the body or of an extremity.
    .
    Interestingly, the phrasing of the above definitions in the newer editions of AHD (2000 and 2011) has been revised to exhibit the "simplified version":
    .
    To come to one as a gain, addition, or increment.

    A muscle that draws a body part, such as a finger, arm, or toe, inward toward the median axis of the body or of an extremity.
    .
    The above might serve as an indication that, when there's a choice, the simplified form is currently seen as stylistically preferable.


    Related threads:

    Indefinite article before a series of nouns

    Definite and indefinite article use in series of nouns
     
    Last edited:
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