Sometimes I get confused by articles, especially when it comes to definite articles.

My question is: How do I use the definite article "the" between two nouns?
Should I repeat "the" with each noun?

For example:

Do the earth and Moon orbit the sun?


Do the earth and the moon orbit the sun?

  • 1
    You can use either, but most natural English speakers (certainly in the UK) would use the first I think.
    – Chris R
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


Dropping the second definite article in that sentence represents a form of ellipsis. Briefly, ellipsis is

the omission, from a clause, of one or more words that are nevertheless understood in the context of the remaining elements.

So your sentence may be stated fully or with one or more elements removed—it doesn't matter which as long as the resulting statement is easily understood. Note, however, that use of ellipsis is a shade less formal than making a complete statement. That doesn't make it bad, however, and oftentimes even in formal prose the elliptical statement may be preferred because it seems more natural than a "complete" one.

  • The Wikipedia article you cited contains a list of ellipsis types. Can you please point at the one that deals with eliding articles? They all seem to revolve around verbs.
    – Ivan
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:24
  • The process doesn't normally work on articles, because to use or not use an article, definite or indefinite, can change the meaning too much. If you are a native speaker of a zero-article language, like Russian, this may be tough to get a grip on.
    – Robusto
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:27
  • It works here because the original article governs both nouns, so in effect no article is really "missing."
    – Robusto
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 14:34

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