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Compare the two sentences below.

  1. I need a philips head and flat head screwdriver to finish the project.

  2. I need a philips head and flat head screwdrivers to finish the project.

As a native English speaker, I feel that #1 is correct, but I can't explain why or find the specific rule explaining why. Am I wrong? If I am right, can someone help me to explain why #1 is correct?

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  • 5
    I need Phillips and flathead screwdrivers to finish the project.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 19:10

2 Answers 2

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The first statement implies "one of each type". So it does indeed work as a sentence. The key is the indefinite singular article "a" before "philips head" and (implied) "flat head".

If you leave the article out, the quantity becomes more ambiguous, so plural is more appropriate.

"I need philips and flathead screwdrivers to finish the project."

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If I wanted to specifically refer to one of each, I’d say:

I need one Phillips head and one flat head screwdriver to finish the project.

Or, less formally:

I need a Phillips head and a flat head screwdriver to finish the project.

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