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Is it necessary to use an article with the word secret?

For example:

Teach your children not to keep problems, games, or other activities a secret.

or

Teach your children not to keep problems, games, or other activities secret.

and

If your kids go out for ice cream with a grandparent—even though you wouldn't approve—the grandparent shouldn't tell the kids to keep the ice cream a secret from you.

or

If your kids go out for ice cream with a grandparent—even though you wouldn't approve—the grandparent shouldn't tell the kids to keep the ice cream secret from you.

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    The context you're asking about is very specifically the verb usage to keep [something] secret. It's really a stylistic choice whether to include the indefinite article (in which case secret is a noun) or not (in which case secret is an adjective). FWIW I wouldn't use an article in the first example because it clashes with the fact that we've got a list of multiple "secrets". – FumbleFingers Aug 9 '14 at 17:36
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    To expand on @FumbleFingers' comments, keep [noun] a [noun] and keep [noun] adjective are both possible sequences in English. For example, you can keep something safe, or you can keep somebody a prisoner. – Peter Shor Aug 9 '14 at 18:59
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    @Peter Shor You can also keep somebody prisoner. I think this one is best not analysed beyond the 3-word (assuming 'him' or 'Nelson' rather than 'the former President' etc) idiom; deciding the word-class of prisoner would probably warrant a doctorate. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 9 '14 at 21:04
  • @Lacey: I've flagged the question to see if the mods will migrate it to English Language Learners (where I think it belongs). You can in fact hold someone prisoner with or without the article, so the specific words keep and secret aren't particularly significant here. But you can't keep someone a safe, and a decent answer for a learner might need to explain why that is. I have little interest in posting an ELU-type answer that simply says "The article is just a stylistic choice in OP's exact contexts". – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '14 at 18:28
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    @Barmar: Precisely! So I'm now a bit ambivalent about this question. I think the basic "Is it necessary to use an article here?" question is a better fit for ELL, but the longer it hangs around "unanswered and unmigrated", the more I'm becoming interested in the broader question of the general class of such constructions. That's to say - which "verb + object + [a ???? (noun)] OR [???? (adjective]" combinations allow such usages, and what if anything do the relevant verb and ????-word elements have in common? – FumbleFingers Aug 11 '14 at 15:32
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All four examples are grammatical, but have different underlying constructions. It is necessary to use an article -- if you mean "secret" to be a noun. It is necessary not to use an article if you mean "secret" to be an adjective.

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