Which is a correct way to use a single adjective and multiple nouns with articles?

  1. I have a new note and a pen.
  2. I have a new note and a new pen.
  3. I have a note and a pen which are new.
  4. (None of above)
  1. It seems ambigious whether a pen is new or not.
  2. Adjective new is redundant.
  3. It seems the most clear, but it sounds a little bit unnatural and structure is complicated than (1) and (2). Hence, if a sentence gets longer, it would be hard to read and understand.
  • 1
    I would distinguish between "a new note and a pen" and "a new note and pen". In the latter case, you omit the indefinite article, which allows for the interpretation that you have also omitted the repetition of the word "new". If you use the indefinite article again, that implication is not as clear.
    – Flater
    May 31, 2017 at 11:41
  • 1
    You can say that you've written a note with your new pen. As for applying adjectives to multiple nouns, I don't think there's a general answer, though context and convention can sometimes help to reduce duplication
    – Lawrence
    May 31, 2017 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


Flater is correct. The best (clearest and least ambiguous) option is

I have a new note and pen.

Here are some thoughts on these:

I have a new note and a pen.

The repeated article "a" indicates that these are separate items and, because new is located between note and its article, it would be assumed that new applies only to that item. (By eliminating the second article before pen, then the first a, as well as the adjective that follows it, applies to both items in the list.

I have a new note and a new pen.

This is grammatically correct and completely unambiguous. It is also a little unwieldy.

I have a note and a pen which are new.

Again, grammatically correct, but is not what a native speaker would say. When we say "a new pen", it's sort of a shorthand for "a pen which is new". Fluent English speakers understand that adjectives work that way so they wouldn't bother with the longer, more formal sounding structure.

  • Hi! "I have a new note and pen." is a great example. But what about plurals? "I have new notes and pens." Please, help me, I strongly need good answer to this. Aug 18, 2018 at 19:53
  • 1
    @NurbolAlpysbayev - If you write I have new notes and pens, a native speaker will assume that both your pens and your notes are new. If you want to be absolutely clear that you both are new, you could write I have new notes and new pens. When reading this, I would hear emphasis on the and as if to stress that you got not just new notes but new pens as well, something you perhaps didn't expect. If you want to be clear that only the notes are new, the easiest way is probably to switch the order: I have pens and new notes. Here, it's clear that new only applies to the notes. Aug 20, 2018 at 17:55
  • You could also word it as I have new notes but I still have the same pens as before but that seems unnecessary (unless, perhaps, you want to emphasize your disappointment at not getting new pens.) Aug 20, 2018 at 17:56
  • Thank you very much, @Roger! Your answer is very clear and helpful. Could you think about one more case: "Local terms and definitions"? "Terms and definitions" is a stable phrase, so I guess the full phrase (with prepended "local") would definitely mean the both things are local? Or it would not? Aug 20, 2018 at 22:32
  • 1
    Yes, if you refer to local terms and definitions, a native speaker would assume you are referring to local terms and local definitions. If that's not what you want, you can, again, reverse the order to avoid confusion: definitions and local terms. You could also add an adjective to indicate that the definitions are not local: local terms and global definitions or local terms and standard definitions, depending on context. Aug 20, 2018 at 23:31

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