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According to one article reference book, it says we can omit articles (a, an, the) in front of the second, third,… nouns. Is it really acceptable from native English speakers' point of view? Is it really grammatically correct and allowed in writing? The book says it is so clear that each item (noun) is a different item, so we do not need to repeat the article.

Example 1:

I bought a lemon, melon, and pineapple.

Example 2:

I asked her to pass me the pen, eraser, and pencil sharpener.

I understand we can definitely place "a" in front of each noun, but could placing the articles (a, the) be redundant?

  • Bottom line: this 'rule' is, as is usually the case, a rule of thumb. In many cases, omitting subsequent a's would lead to an unnatural-sounding variant. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 1 '15 at 11:09
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Leaving out the articles is grammatical. But we're more likely to leave out repeated definite articles than indefinite ones. See Ngram. And we're much more likely to leave out the article when the items are connected. For example, Ngram shows "a car and trailer" is more common than "a car and a trailer"; but "a car and house" is less common than "a car and a house" (although both forms are used in both cases).

And while "he gave me a box of chocolates and bouquet of roses" sounds fine to me, I think you really should put two articles in "he gave me an octopus and bouquet of roses".

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    Good answer, just one little quibble -- with the chocolates and the roses, I don't think this is a place to skimp on articles. We need the full flavor and aroma here. – aparente001 Sep 2 '15 at 20:23
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The answer is different for the two sentences.

In the first, you were buying items from among (presumably) many. Many melons, many lemons, many pineapples. So, for each kind of fruit, you picked one, previously unspecified. You need the indefinite article "a" for each fruit:

  • I bought a melon, a lemon and a pineapple.

In the second, it might be that there was only one each of pen, eraser, and pencil sharpener (or only one that she had, or had access to.) In that case, "the" can distribute across all three items, exactly as you wrote the sentence.

  • I asked her to pass me the pen, eraser and pencil sharpener.

However, if you knew, for instance, that there was only one pencil sharpener, but several pens and erasers she might hand you:

  • I asked her to pass me a pen, an eraser and the pencil sharpener.
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    You've made this up! – Araucaria Sep 1 '15 at 10:14
  • Are you saying it's not true? – Brian Hitchcock Sep 1 '15 at 10:18
  • Yes, the first sentence is awkward but not ungrammatical. There are lots of examples of co-ordinated nouns with a single indefinite article. See, for example, "a knife, fork and spoon". :) – Araucaria Sep 1 '15 at 10:21
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    Or, for example, these well known joke intros – Araucaria Sep 1 '15 at 10:23
  • Not only is it awkward, it's ambiguous. He might have bought three cans of pineapple for all we know. – Brian Hitchcock Sep 1 '15 at 10:30

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