1

Can I omit the second determiner "a" in this sentence?

Which would you like, a peach cake or a cheesecake?

Is the determiner of cheesecake necessary to make the intended meaning of either a peach cake or a cheesecake?

2

Provided that "peach cake" and "cheesecake" are both nouns, yes, you need only one article before "peach cake and cheesecake". This is because of a general principle of coordination: you can coordinate two things of the same category to create a constituent of that same category.

So, if "peach cake" is a noun, and "cheesecake" is a noun, then the conjunction "peach cake and cheesecake" is also a noun. An article "a" when combined with a noun gives us a noun phrase. Therefore, "a peach cake and cheesecake" is a grammatical noun phrase.

That doesn't mean you can't have two articles, if you want to have them. By the same principles just mentioned, combining "a" with the noun "peach cake" gives you a noun phrase "a peach cake", and combining "a" with the noun "cheesecake" gives you a noun phrase "a cheesecake". Then, since combining two noun phrases with "and" should give you a noun phrase (by the above principle), "a peach cake and a cheesecake" should give a grammatical noun phrase.

Some might think that "peach cake" and "cheesecake" are not actually of the same category of noun, since the first has a space written before "cake" and the second doesn't have a space there. I don't much care about how things are written down, but still, that difference is worth thinking about.

  • I upvoted your answer. Would you object to omitting both articles? As both of them can be used as mass nouns, I think we can consider omitting both of them. – user140086 Nov 4 '15 at 7:27
  • @Rathony, I agree that both "a"s can be omitted. – Greg Lee Nov 4 '15 at 17:20
1

When extracted out of the sentence both, "a peach cake" and "a cheesecake" are equivalent to the whole cake. "Which would you like a whole peach cake or a whole cheesecake?" If this is what you intend with your sentence you could just as easily say: "Which would you like the peach cake or the cheesecake?" If the written sentence is in reference to a piece of cake or the variety of cake, then you can just drop the "a" and/or the "cake": "Which type of cake would you like, peach or cheese?" or "Which would you like, peach cake or cheesecake?". To answer your question yes you can drop the determiner, but it will change the meaning.

0

Either is fine. They would be diagrammed differently, but both are grammatically valid and the semantics are equivalent.

0

Either seems correct, for the specific question "Which would you like..." makes clear the speaker is referring to particular cakes, not a universal class of cakes. It would be more precise to use "...a cheesecake" to denote the reference is to one specific cheesecake or one slice of a particular cheesecake, rather than to all cheesecakes as a class.

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