Which form is correct?:

This technique improves a speed and a performance


This technique improves speed and performance

If there are two and more items, should each one be preceded by an article, or should I skip all articles, as there are more than one item?

  • I think the correctness of the two alternatives depends upon context. If the speed and performance are closely linked in some manner, as with an automobile, then I don't think the articles are needed, as in the second version. But if speed and performance are not closely related, as in typing / keyboarding, then the first choice might be the better of the two.
    – brasshat
    Jun 17, 2015 at 9:47
  • 1
    Look up frequencies of uses on the internet for individual usages. n ("improves speed and performance") : n("improves a speed and a performance") = 61 500 : 2 (and guess whose the 2 are?). Jun 17, 2015 at 10:03
  • @EdwinAshworth I don't get why :'-( . One native speaker told me never to skip articles, however, there are abstract nouns which don't need them at all, in addition, you tell me I can skip them in enumeration Jun 17, 2015 at 10:13
  • One native speaker almost certainly hasn't read either the Cobuild book or the many posts here. I didn't say 'You can skip them in enumeration'; I 'said' (indicated) that 'This technique improves a speed and a performance' is unacceptable in most people's opinion. deadrat's example is certainly acceptable, and shows that the rules governing article usage are highly complex. My subsequent comment indicated that there are often choices; the linked article shows that these might have subtly different emphases. Jun 17, 2015 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


The number of items on the list is immaterial. You need to examine each noun and use an appropriate article or none at all depending on the noun:

"Winning requires a willingness to work hard, the desire for success, and unrelenting drive."

  • why there is no article before "unrelenting drive" ? Jun 17, 2015 at 9:29
  • Although these are by no means the only acceptable choices here. // The use of 'a' with (what are almost certainly best classed as) mass nouns has been discussed here before. Jun 17, 2015 at 9:36
  • @EdwinAshworth can you elaborate on that? Jun 17, 2015 at 9:44
  • @MarcAndreson (1) Look up "a willingness to work hard" and "the willingness to work hard" etc in Google searches. While they're not totally interchangeable, I'd say they often are. It's context as well as the particular noun that informs choice. // (2) See the A blinding light / blinding sunlight / a blinding sunlight thread. // (0) Article usage is extremely complex in English. Cobuild have a 100+ page monograph on the subject. Jun 17, 2015 at 9:56

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