Is it grammatically correct to use an indefinite article "a" twice in the following sentence:

Sean is a coward and a psychopath.

There is a previous question about a definite article the, "Is it necessary to use “the” multiple times?", but it doesn't seem to answer my question.

  • 5
    You forgot a ? at the end. :p – ralph.m Dec 16 '15 at 8:13
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    What makes you think there is an error? And show some respect for the community by using Standard English. Is it so hard to type you instead of u? If you don't have enough time for two more characters, why should anyone spend their time answering your question? – A.P. Dec 16 '15 at 8:22
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    @A.P. Don't be too harsh on the OP. :-) – user140086 Dec 16 '15 at 8:24
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    @deadrat I don't feel disrespected, but the question and the ensuing comments on the part of the OP seem to indicate a fundamental lack of research and effort. Be it effort of crafting a good question, going through the FAQ, using a spellchecker, or putting commas where they obviously belong. And that is not a Good Thing. – A.P. Dec 16 '15 at 9:28
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    You need to explain "why" you are asking. Did someone tell you there was an error? Who was this person, a teacher, a friend, a non-native speaker etc. Do you think there is an error, why? The question needs more "meat", it's boring without any context. Also, the question title is very direct, so it sounds rude to native speakers, as if you're ordering them to give you an answer. In life, first impressions count (unfortunately). – Mari-Lou A Dec 16 '15 at 9:41

Who says (said) there is (was) an error? Sounds pretty OK to me.

With more words and perhaps a bit more force, you could say,

Sean is both a coward and a psychopath.


Sean is at the same time a coward and a psychopath.


Sean is a cowardly psychopath.


Sean is, at the same time, a coward and a psychopath.


Sean is characterized by cowardice and psychopathology [in the sense of abnormal, maladaptive behavior or mental activity.


Sean is an odd mixture of cowardice and psychopathology.


I would characterize Sean as a cowardly psychopath.

  • How does the first sentence without both sound, i.e. Sean is a coward and a psychopath? The OP might have been taught to omit the second a. – user140086 Dec 16 '15 at 8:38
  • Is the use of second a wrong in the sentence? – user141202 Dec 16 '15 at 11:45

There's nothing wrong with repeating the article.

We have several phrases in English that do this, and they are well accepted:

  • An officer and a gentleman
  • A gentleman and a scholar
  • A blessing and a curse

In rhetoric, the intentional repetition of a word for emphasis is called anaphora.


This appears to be a version of this device whose purpose is to emphasize the equality of the two qualities bestowed upon the person or thing described.

  • A liar and a cheat. – Peter Shor Dec 16 '15 at 14:23
  • Good add, Peter. – Steven Littman Dec 16 '15 at 14:56
  • From today's New York Times online: “When Modi cudn’t (sic) handle me politically, he resorts to this cowardice,” Mr. Kejriwal said on Twitter, calling Mr. Modi “a coward and a psycopath.” (Just came across it.) But I bet the OP knew that! (I'm surprised there was no mention of "cudn't". – Steven Littman Dec 16 '15 at 15:05

Technically, it must be; 'Sean is a coward and psychopath'. In this sentence we're referring to only one person who is both a coward and a psychopath.

  • 3
    What technicality are you citing? And why doesn't it apply to "who is both a coward and a psychopath"? – deadrat Dec 16 '15 at 9:11
  • I want to know it too. – user141202 Dec 16 '15 at 11:46
  • So in the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman", the officer. and the gentleman were two different people? I missed that completely – Peter Shor Dec 16 '15 at 12:58
  • @PeterShor That's a very interesting example. As far as I understood it from watching the movie, I don't think an Officer and a Gentleman necessarily mean the same guy. Hmm... I am NOT sure... – user140086 Dec 16 '15 at 13:04
  • @Rathony: "An officer and a gentleman" is an old idiom in English, and they generally mean the same person. From 1840 Google Books "but recollect, Peter, that you are an officer and a gentleman". So I naturally assumed they were both Richard Gere in the movie, but I think you're right ... it's possible that they're not. – Peter Shor Dec 16 '15 at 14:13

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