Is the following sentence incorrect?

Churchil was a great orator and a great politician of his time.

Some say that when article refers to a single person it must be used just once


Churchil was a great orator and politician of his time.

But to me both the sentences sound correct.

The example is from a study guide written in an Indian language for English language learners. The study guide misspells "Churchill" as "Churchil".

  1. Churchill was a great orator and a great politician of his times.
  2. Churchill was a great orator and politician of his times.

Both of the above sentences are not only correct but also mean exactly the same thing.

But the following sentences have different shades of meaning:

  1. Tagore is a great poet, painter, singer, dramatist, novelist and patriot.
  2. Tagore is a great poet, a painter, a singer, a dramatist, a novelist and a patriot.

Both the sentences are grammatically correct.

The first sentence emphatically says that Tagore is great in all those aspects.

The second sentence may mean that Tagore is great as a poet but just a painter, singer, novelist and painter. The greatness of Tagore may not be implied to his other qualities.

So if we want to say that Tagore is great in all aspects the sentence 1 is preferrable.

I would like to give another example which shows how the omission of the article brings a change in meaning:

  1. A black and a white cow are grazing (two cows having different colours).
  2. A black and white cow is grazing (a single cow having both colours).

I will provide the link which explains the topic


My answer is based on the books I have read and comments on the site and my research on the internet.

  • (Winston) Churchill is dead, and has been for a long time. I would use was in 1 and 2. The sentences about Tagore may, possibly, be grammatical but listing his qualities without using a conjunction to complete the sentence is poor style in my eyes.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 2 '19 at 18:18
  • Search Simple blockquotes to find how to place quotes in yellow strips.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 2 '19 at 18:21
  • 1
    A black-and-white cow
    – Lambie
    Sep 3 '19 at 20:42

A sentence can have multiple phrases, each of which refers to a different aspect of a single entity. Each phrase can have an appropriate article (or lack thereof). For example:

A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama! -- A famous palindrome about U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt and the construction of the Panama Canal.

Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. -- From the United States' version of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

A great man, a humble servant, and a shepherd to millions has passed on. Billy Graham was a consequential leader. -- From former U.S. President George W. Bush's formal statement after the Reverend Billy Graham died.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 2 '19 at 21:52

Churchill was a great orator and a great politician of his time.

It is correct. As has already been mentioned, it is just a style choice whether you want to make a sentence shorter or not. However, I would argue that most people prefer more concise, succinct language.

The sentence could be shortened, but only because it is using the same adjective "great" to describe his achievements:

Churchill was a great orator and politician.

This would be understood that he was both "great" at being an orator and at being a politician.

Obviously, if you wanted to ascribe different adjectives then there is no way to shorten it. You would have to write:

Churchill was a great orator and an average politician.

  • but an average politician... you're contrasting two qualities.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 2 '19 at 19:51
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA -- Your comment could be the core of a good question. Both ways of expressing this kind of thought are common in English; they emphasize different aspects of the thought.
    – Jasper
    Sep 2 '19 at 21:57
  • @Mari-LouA If I used "but" then I would be contrasting them. I don't have to contrast them. You normally only contrast things if one is positive and the other negative. For example, you wouldn't say "a screwdriver is a useful tool BUT an essential part of your toolbox". "Useful" and "essential" are different adjectives but both positive. No need to contrast them.
    – Astralbee
    Sep 3 '19 at 9:11
  • "Average" is worse than "great" therefore the two qualities in the same sentences act as a contrast: "This toolbox is really great but the screwdrivers are only average". In any case, calling Churchill, if only for illustrative purposes, an "average politician" is practically sacrilege :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 3 '19 at 10:46
  • 1
    Getting a B is a good mark but I get your point.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 3 '19 at 13:47

Style Difference is a matter of context:

In a formal speech:

Churchill was a great orator and a great politician.

In other contexts, it depends on how formal or emphatic you want to be. Separating out the terms using two articles emphasizes each individually.

I just don't think it is more complicated than that.

However, in this sentence:

Tagore is a great poet, painter, singer, dramatist, novelist and patriot.

I would not repeat the article, ever, because the list of accomplishments speaks for itself.

You must log in to answer this question.