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It seems that the question has eventually become a series of questions....


Question 1

An example goes as:

The 1st and (the) 2nd paragraphs of the article are extremely long.

Is it necessary to use the in ()?

Answer contributed by waiwai933 & further explained by Tragicomic

Generally, repeating the word the before items in a list list is not necessary. This is because first and second are adjectives modifying a common plural noun (paragraphs). Think of the as being distributed across all the elements.

However, there are some exceptions.

The first paragraph, which is the funniest paragraph of the article, and the second paragraph is extremely long.

Here, the the is necessary because you've entered and exited a dependent clause, which the the cannot distribute across.


Question 2

Another example:

What are the situation, (the) task and (the) result of your story?

Answer contributed by Tragicomic

All the articles are needed since we are talking about separate coordinate nouns. However, if the coordinate nouns made up a single idea, we would not need an article for each of the nouns.

Additional notes

We would not need an article for each of the nouns when the separate nouns combine to form one single idea. A common example is:

The officer and gentleman escorted the lady to the car.

The officer and the gentleman escorted the lady to the car.

The second sentence would mean that there were two persons escorting the lady to the car, while in the first one there was just one person (who is an officer and a gentleman) as the subject.

The use of the can also be important while using adjectives with non-count nouns. Another common example is:

I would like to buy the red, blue and yellow cloth.

I would like to buy the red, the blue, and the yellow cloth.

Since cloth cannot be used in the plural, it is the definite article the that tells us whether I would like to buy cloth that is red, blue and yellow, or three separate pieces of cloth (one red, one blue and one yellow).

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Generally, repeating the word "the" before items in a list list is not necessary. Think of "the" as being distributed across all the elements.

However, there are some exceptions.

The first paragraph, which is the funniest paragraph of the article, and the second paragraph are extremely long.

Here, the "the" is necessary because you've entered and exited a dependent clause, which the "the" cannot distribute across.

Generally, if it might be confusing to a reader or listener, include the word "the". Similarly, if it would be distracting, omit it.

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2  
I agree that in the first example, the first and (the) second paragraphs are extremely long, the is not needed the second time. This is because first and second are adjectives modifying a common plural noun (paragraphs). In the last example in the question, What are the situation, (the) task and (the) result of your story, all the articles are needed since we are talking about separate coordinate nouns. However, if the coordinate nouns made up a single idea, we would not need an article for each of the nouns. –  Tragicomic Jan 21 '11 at 9:28
    
@Tragicomic I think the answer will be more complete with your comment. XD –  user3812 Jan 21 '11 at 10:17

In the first example, "the" is not needed the second time. This is because first and second are adjectives modifying a common plural noun (paragraphs).

The first and second paragraphs are extremely long.

However, in the last example in the question, all the articles are needed since we are talking about separate coordinate nouns.

What are the situation, the task, and the result of your story?

We would not need an article for each of the nouns when the separate nouns combine to form one single idea. A common example is:

  • The officer and gentleman escorted the lady to the car.
  • The officer and the gentleman escorted the lady to the car.

The second sentence would mean that there were two persons escorting the lady to the car, while the first one just has one person (who is an officer and a gentleman) as the subject.

The use of "the" can also be important while using adjectives with non-count nouns. Another common example is:

  • I would like to buy the red, blue and yellow cloth.
  • I would like to buy the red, the blue, and the yellow cloth.

Since cloth cannot be used in the plural, it is the definite article the that tells us whether I would like to buy cloth that is red, blue and yellow, or three separate pieces of cloth (one red, one blue and one yellow).

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Thank you for your contribution. I have included your reference in the question. –  user3812 Jan 24 '11 at 3:39

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