For example:

"I have a red ball and a blue ball. The red and blue balls are in the corner."

"There is a first circuit for detecting motion and a second circuit for compensating for the detected motion. The first and second circuits are disposed on the same chip."

"The driver applies an ON voltage and an OFF voltage to the scanning line. The ON and OFF voltages are alternated each scanning period."

These all seem right to me, but I do not know why. This issue appears related to the "suspended hyphen" rule, but since the phrases in question are not hyphenated words, I am not sure if that rule applies.

  • 1
    Well they are all perfectly correct and not limited to two, e.g. The red, green, yellow, purple and blue balls are in the corner is possible. I'm not aware that this has a name - it is just normal English. Oct 5, 2015 at 18:35
  • What is done in your native language?
    – Mitch
    Oct 5, 2015 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


Yes, you can. The rule describing this pattern is called "conjunction reduction". However, abbreviating in this way does potentially introduce ambiguity. Your example "The red and blue balls are in the corner" illustrates this. The subject could refer to a mixture of monocolor red balls and blue balls, or several bicolor balls each of which is colored both red and blue.

  • Or one only of either / each colour. Oct 24, 2015 at 16:50

Forms using and (and or, and some other words) are called "coordinations", and can occur at several different levels:


I went home and Lauren stayed at the office.


I went home and had a cup of tea.

Noun phrases:

John and Jenny went to the theatre.

I ate a sandwich and a bowl of soup

Verb phrases:

I read through, and decided to approve, the report

Modifiers in noun phrases:

We played with red and blue balls.

In many cases, if the branches of the coordination have something in common, that something can be extracted from the coordination:

I went to the shop and I went to the launderette -> I went to the shop and the launderette.

We played with red balls and blue balls -> We played with red and blue balls.

The "suspended hyphen" rule is not really relevant. It is a rule of spelling (or punctuation, if you will: I call it spelling). This is part of written language, which is an aberrant and dependent part of language. If people use a structure in speech, then it exists in the language, whether or not people can agree how it should be written.

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