4

"I am moving in with a dog and a cat"

versus

"I am moving in with a dog and cat"

Which is correct?

  • 1
    This is more of a style question than a correctness question. – J.R. Nov 14 at 11:19
10

with a dog and a cat is far more usual.

There's nothing wrong grammatically with with a dog and cat; but it is formally ambiguous as to whether it is talking about two animals or one.

Of course in this case, there is no sensible meaning that would take it as one. But consider with a teacher and counsellor: that will probably be taken to refer to one person, but with a teacher and a counsellor it will mean two.

  • 2
    To supplement this excellent answer, people do use ellipsis when there can be no ambiguity. In the U.S., saying "a dog and cat," which cannot be misconstrued as a single animal, might well be used more frequently in speech or informal writing than "a dog and a cat." (Ngram does show the latter as considerably more frequent, but it does not observe speech and informal writing.) – Jeff Morrow Nov 13 at 18:04
  • John Lawler spoke of viewing something as a single unit versus two single units. – Lambie Nov 13 at 20:13
3

"a X and Y" implies that "X and Y" is a recognized unit - i.e. that the two belong together and can in some way be considered a single entity.

To give some alternatives:

I am moving in with a husband and wife.

would be fine. A husband and a wife form a recognized pair.

Most people would would not consider "dog and cat" to be a recognized pair. They don't normally belong together. So it would be unusual to say "a dog and cat". "A dog and a cat" would be much more usual.

  • 4
    I agree with the analysis, but draw the opposite conclusion: A dog and cat is a recognised pair (of two common pets so naturally belong together) and so I wouldn't repeat "a". I'd also say "cat and dog" (probably because the idiom "cats and dogs" make that order seem better) – James K Nov 13 at 20:28
  • People who don't own pets and think stereotypically may be surprised to know that a dog and a cat can indeed form a bonded "dog and cat" pair, which would be subtly implied by saying "with a dog and cat". – nigel222 Nov 14 at 9:45

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