Compare the sentences:

  • I spilled water on the floor.
  • I spilled water on the table and floor.
  • I spilled water on the table and the chair.
  1. Is the missing the before floor in the second sentence correct?
  2. If so, is the the before chair in the third sentence optional?
  3. What is the general rule applicable in such cases? Is it rule related to the conjunction, or the nature of the noun like floor, or both?
  • You can use or not use the second "the". The implication is slightly different, but only slightly. – Hot Licks Jun 19 '18 at 11:36

The Chicago Manual of Style Chapter 5, Section 73 (sorry, subscription required) says that, with a series of coordinate nouns, an article may appear before each noun, but is not necessary.

So, for question 1:

Is the missing the before floor in I spilled water on the table and floor correct?


And 2:

Is the the before chair in I spilled water on the table and the chair optional?


In these cases, it is a matter of preference and, perhaps, emphasis.

  • Ta. Not enough reputation to accept answer/upvote. Given a table the floor is identified from the context, unlike the chair - does that play part in using or not using the article or the type of article. – enjayes Jun 21 '18 at 0:17
  • @enjayes as the question asker, you can select the gray checkmark next to an answer to mark it accepted. That doesn't require any reputation. You could make an argument that including an article before each coordinate noun adds more emphasis to where the spill landed (vs. that the spill occurred). Your question about floor vs. table is less of a concern here. It sounds like you're trying to apply the logic of when to use a definite vs. indefinite article, but that's not the case here. "a" would be odd in either case. – De Novo Jun 21 '18 at 0:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.