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What is the correct form and what is the exact name of this phenomenon. I tried looking it up myself but I could only find a German explanation that might also explain the English problem.

An example could be:

Please read page 1 and 2

vs

Please read pages 1 and 2

or

I like number 2 and 3

vs

I like numbers 2 and 3

and another one:

I managed to solve question 6, 7, 8 and 9

vs

I managed to solve questions 6, 7, 8 and 9

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1  
I think a little more context than just "page 1+2" would be helpful. Could you edit the question to give complete sentences and put the relevant part in bold? Do use the word and if that's what you mean rather than a plus sign. –  Andrew Leach Sep 23 '12 at 17:57
    
ok, edited the question and the body. –  three Sep 23 '12 at 18:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I believe that you are noticing something called ellipsis. The correct way to say these would be

Do problems 1 and 2.
Do problem 1 and problem 2.

However, you can shorten "problem 1 and problem 2" to leave out the second instance of the repeated word "problem", getting:

Do problem 1 and 2.

There are only some cases in which you can do this. I would say this case is borderline.

This has nothing to do with the German link, which is talking about constructions like

Macaroni and cheese is my favorite meal.
Thunder and lightning is scary.

where two paired words which occur together often are treated as a singular construct.

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Thank you, the longer I think about it ellipsis seems to be the best answer. –  three Sep 26 '12 at 13:12

If by “+” you mean “and”, then you want the plural. E.g.:

Do problems 2 and 3 from chapters 4 and 5 on pages 127 and 128.

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You can also use the singular. "Do problem 2 and 3" is an instance of ellipsis ... it's short for "Do problem 2 and problem 3". –  Peter Shor Sep 23 '12 at 18:02
    
I have difficulty eliding problem here, unless I imagine myself in front of a class adding and 3 on after a delay. @BarrieEngland ’s answer is along the same lines as mine. I wonder how he feels about ellipsis here? –  Daniel Harbour Sep 23 '12 at 18:14
    
@DanielHarbour: I share your difficulty. I suspect the ellipted form, if that's what it is, is something careful writers would avoid. It's no trouble to write, or even say, problems rather than problem. –  Barrie England Sep 23 '12 at 18:26
    
I think the OP's question was what ellipsis is called. I agree that this example is a borderline case, where you probably shouldn't use ellipsis. –  Peter Shor Sep 23 '12 at 20:05

It’s either Please read page 1 and page 2 or Please read pages 1 and 2 and either I like number 2 and number 3 or I like numbers 2 and 3.

In your last example it’s either I managed to solve question 6, question 7, question 8 and question 9 or I managed to solve questions 6, 7, 8 and 9.

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