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I'm a bit confused about the usage of "the" in a list. Even after reading this post, it's not clear to me which of the following is grammatically correct.

"Is the [object] at the top or bottom?"

"Is the [object] at the top or the bottom?"

Or should "at" be distributed as well? (In which case, it seems clear that "the" should appear twice.)

"Is the [object] at the top or at the bottom?"

marked as duplicate by tchrist Feb 11 '17 at 17:33

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  • 1
    They are all grammatical, and mean essentially the same thing. – Drew Feb 11 '17 at 2:49
  • Deletion, or ellipsis, or something like that, that is. – NVZ Feb 11 '17 at 17:08

All of the examples are OK as to grammar.

"Is the [object] at the top or bottom?"

is the most concise.
But this can be taken another step.
If calculator is on an ordered list of office equipment, a question might be:

"Is calculator at the top or bottom?"

also concise and correct, without the "the", if it appears on the list as just "calculator".
If , on the list, "one calculator" appears, the the question would be:

"Is the the calculator at the top or bottom?"


"Is one calculator at the top or bottom?"

as the "one" is defining, and any reference to it should include the defining as singular.
One will need to make a decision as to how concise the phrasing need be.

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