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How should I write if I want to buy a DVD of the movie "The Exorcist".

  1. I want to buy a The Exorcist DVD.

  2. I want to buy a "The Exorcist" DVD.

So what to do when there should be an "a" before a noun/name starting with "The"? Should we use quotes? Which is right?

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  • MODERATOR WARNING: Got an answer? Post an answer. Do not post answers in comments.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 13:53

4 Answers 4

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The difficult part of this sentence is the DVD title already having an indefinite article. In cases like this, you would choose whichever indefinite article fits grammatically. For example, I would phrase the sentence as:

I want to buy The Exorcist on DVD

Or, depending on whichever style guide you are adhering to:

I want to buy "The Exorcist" on DVD.

The object of the sentence is the movie named "The Exorcist". Here, DVD is used more like an adjective — it provides additional descriptive information about the movie (it is on DVD as opposed to VHS, or streamed on Netflix, etc). There is no need for the additional indefinite article "a" to appear in the sentence, because the object of the sentence (a movie title) already has an article.

An alternative that uses "a" would be:

I want to buy a DVD of "The Exorcist".

Here the object of the sentence is the medium through which the movie can be watched (a DVD), and the title of the movie is an additional description.

You do not need two articles when the object of a sentence is the title or name of something, and the title already contains an article.

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    Probably "I want to buy a DVD of The Exorcist" though; the preposition for with buy denotes the recipient or instigator of the purchase ("I want to buy a DVD for my brother").
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 15:12
  • @AndrewLeach: even though I grew up speaking English, I always get that wrong. I am constantly using "for" in cases like this when I should be using "of". To be honest, reading the sentence using "of" feels right, but it still feels funny speaking it. Not sure why. Just a habitual misuse of the word, I suppose. Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 15:39
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    Hello, Greg. 'The' is the definite article. // Otherwise, I'd agree with what you offer. << I want to buy a "The Exorcist" DVD. >> is probably 'correct' according to some scheme, but I believe it should be discounted on Orwellian grounds (it sounds so awful). Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 16:37
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    I think the constructions in this answer would be preferable even if there were no article in the title. For example, "I want to buy a Rosemary's Baby DVD" does not sound idiomatic to me. Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 13:21
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    I think you do need two articles. "Pass us that DVD" "Which one?" "I want the 'The Exorcist' one". Otherwise you'd be asking for a DVD called "Exorcist", not "The Exorcist". It's OK to repeat "The", even if you're not a post-punk Scottish band who did that one song that's really good.
    – Greenaum
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 20:15
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One thing that no one's mentioned is to just drop the extra article. This one only works when the title is still identifiable as a movie without the article. For example:

  • "I want to buy a Lord of the Rings box set" - clear that you're talking about The Lord of the Rings
  • "I want to buy a Menu DVD" - not clear that you are talking about the 2022 film The Menu

I'm not sure how technically "correct" it is, but it's common in casual speech, especially for very long titles.

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  • Great idea! This is what we usually do when we speak! The only problem is that like when we talk about movies, there are similar titles, the only difference is a "The" at the beginning. For example: The Room (2003)/Room (2015) The Deadpool (1988)/Deadpool (2016)
    – macc
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 12:31
  • Perhaps The The would sell more records if people could get their heads around going into the record store and asking Have you got the The The's latest album? (Very difficult to articulate when they're all schwas! :) Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 13:55
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    @FF Are there still any record stores in existence? Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 16:14
  • HMV still exist in some towns, but I think they're sort of a museum now, a museum that sells terrible Crossley record players.
    – Greenaum
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 20:09
  • In writing you can distinguish the article that's in the title using quotes or capitalization. So this answer tends to be more applicable to speech than writing.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 23:40
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The article "The" is used with the noun "Exorcist" the noun DVD is a countable singular noun, that also needs article'a". Therefore, the second option of your sentence is more appropriate

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I want to buy a DVD of "The Exorcist".

That's how I'd say it, or indeed for any DVD, definite articles or otherwise.

Have you got a DVD of "The Wizard of Oz"? I'm going to buy "The Devil's Rejects" on DVD.

You don't really say "I'm going to buy a Mary Poppins DVD", you'd say "a DVD of Mary Poppins"

Saying it as "a The Exorcist DVD" sounds like it's a special kind of DVD that's not like the others, like maybe it's haunted or something. The DVD is an object, and the film is something "on" the DVD.

But since you asked, option 2 is the better one, because titles of films go in quote marks.

[I've left out putting all these phrases I'd say in quotes, by the way, because the names of films are also in quotes and it just gets confusing.]

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  • I disagree, I think "Mary Poppins DVD" is idiomatic, although "on DVD" might be more common.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 23:42

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