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When using a compound predicate noun where both parts would normally be preceded by an article, is it correct to leave one article off? Is it correct to use both? Is it a matter of preference? If so, is one way generally preferred over the other?

For instance:

This book is a help and blessing.


This book is a help and a blessing.

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I think you should normally repeat the article, but I'd be interested to know if there are any idiomatic "set phrases" where we usually don't do that. – FumbleFingers Oct 21 '11 at 19:04
A wash and brush? – Barrie England Oct 21 '11 at 19:11
A bow and arrow. – Daniel Dec 10 '13 at 2:55
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Neither is incorrect, but the latter would be preferred for clarity, since the omission is not efficient enough to justify the change. The former is a grammatically valid ellipsis of the second article, i.e. the second article is understood rather than written/spoken. According to a quick and dirty Ngram, the two options are close in popularity, with a slight leaning toward retaining both articles.

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Great answer! Thanks! And that "Ngram" tool looks to be extremely useful... =) – Nathan Arthur Oct 21 '11 at 19:19

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