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. Sep 1, 2015 at 11:09

2 Answers 2


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".

  • 2
    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. Sep 2, 2015 at 20:23
  • @aparente001 not sure what you mean
    – user378171
    Jun 18, 2020 at 21:01

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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.