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(At a store)

  1. I'm looking for a AAA battery. Do you have it?
  2. I'm looking for a AAA battery. Do you have them?
  3. I'm looking for AAA batteries. Do you have them?

I'm confident that (3) is grammatically correct, but when I need only one battery, I'm uncertain whether I should say (1) or (2). Is one of them wrong or better than the other? I think I'm confused because no store would carry only one piece of battery...

Thank you in advance for your help.

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I'd phrase my question in the plural:

I'm looking for AA batteries. Do you have any?

In practice, it isn't usually necessary to pronounce the second sentence. Unless you speak quickly, the shop assistant will probably cut you off and tell you where to find them.

As you say, they are rarely sold in the singular. However, there is nothing wrong with saying:

I'm looking for an AA battery. Do you have any?

The shop assistant will either show you where to find the packs of batteries (as before) or fetch them for you if they're behind the counter (as before), or they might say "We only sell them in packs of four or eight - is that OK?".

Don't say "I'm looking for an AA battery. Do you have it?", because the "it" makes it sound as though you're looking for a specific battery, perhaps one that you accidentally dropped while walking around.

Note: When using the indefinite article before "AA" or "AAA", we say "an" if we are pronouncing "AA" or "AAA" as individual letters. If we are pronouncing "AA" as "double-A" and "AAA" as "triple-A" or "treble-A", we say "a".

  • Hi rjpond, thank you so much for your quick response! I now understand why I shouldn't say "Do you have it/them?" I feel my choice of the object wasn't great, since batteries are something we usually buy more than one piece at a time. Let's say I need to buy one SD card. "I'm looking for an SD card." is more natural than "I'm looking for SD cards," right? If so, and if I'm to say the second sentence (to practice English), should I say, "I'm looking for an SD card. Do you have any?"; "I'm looking for an SD card. Do you have one?"; or "I'm looking for an SD card. Do you have some?" – Richard Oct 29 '17 at 13:18
  • If you were telling a friend why you were in the shop, you'd say you were there to get "an SD card", but when you're addressing the staff, you could equally well say "I'm looking for an SD card" or "I'm looking for SD cards" (because you probably want to see what range of SD cards they have available before deciding which one to buy). Either way, I would say "Do you have any?". – rjpond Oct 29 '17 at 13:51
  • Thank you rjpond for another quick and thorough response! You've clarified multiple areas where I always get confused. Thanks!! – Richard Oct 29 '17 at 14:26
  • This might be BrEng, but you wouldn’t say ‘an AA battery’ you’d say ‘a AA battery’ because it isn’t pronounced ‘ay ay’ but ‘double ay’ (& the smaller ones triple ay) – Tetsujin Nov 3 '17 at 15:31

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