1

I have a doubt about if the articles should be used on both sides of 'and' or just on one side.

For Example: [1] There were a pen and a pencil. OR [2] There were a pen and pencil.

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    Either way, you need to use "was" not "were". – Catija Mar 8 '17 at 5:37
  • I am using a browser extension called "Grammarly" and it says 'were' is the correct usage. I also think same as two things makes it plural. – verv0eren Mar 8 '17 at 5:57
  • Were is correct, but a word of advice: do not trust grammar-checking software very much. None of it is very accurate. – stangdon Mar 8 '17 at 12:37
  • Similar question: usage of “both--and” – Jasper Mar 9 '17 at 16:52
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Depends on the context. In either case, it should be "There was..." and not "There were..."

The article is usually used on both sides, but sometimes it's okay to omit the article on the right hand side if the two objects form a known "word pair" (couple examples below).

There's a cup and a glass on that table.

If everyone could grab a knife and a fork, that would be great.

If everyone could grab a knife and fork, that would be great.

I'd like to buy a suit and a tie, please.

I'd like to buy a suit and tie, please.

  • I am using a browser extension called "Grammarly" and it says 'were' is the correct usage. It also shows the following message with it: "It appears that the singular verb 'was' does not agree with the plural compound subject 'a pen and a pencil' in this inverted sentence. Consider changing the verb to the plural form." – verv0eren Mar 8 '17 at 6:02
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    I've done some research and apparently which one you use is up for debate. The use of "were" here is very awkward and, in my opinion, because you're referring to two separate singular objects, you should use the singular form. I guarantee you will never hear anyone say "There were a pen and a pencil on the table." – nmar Mar 8 '17 at 6:11
  • @nmar it may sound awkward but that's at least partially conditioned by the fact that you aren't used to using it. But there isn't a general rule that two singular subjects joined by a conjunction otherwise get a singular verb (e.g. "A boy and girl play" is normal) – eques Mar 9 '17 at 21:17
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In a construct "X and Y", if you have an modifier Z that both applies to X and Y, the form "Z X and Y" will work and will be the same as "Z X and Z Y".

There is a small possibility for ambiguity if context won't fill in the details.

I took the red chair and table to the shed.

Of course you can specify Z in front of both X and Y if you want for emphasis or clarity.

I took the red chair and red table to the shed.

It's the same for articles. Unlike adjectives, there won't be any ambiguity, "the X and Y" will almost always be taken as "the X and the Y."

I took the chair and table to the shed = I took the chair and the table to the shed.

I took the red chair and the red table to the shed.

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There were a pen and a pencil.

There was a pen and pencil.

Both the sentences are grammatical.

In the former, you are referring to two things individually, whereas in the latter, you are referring to a unit consisting of a pen and a pencil.

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