When you name the floor you're on, you say "I'm on the [an ordinal number] floor.", which totally makes sense!

So why do people, for example, say "We're stuck between floors two and three"?

Do they imply the definite article in front of "floors" but omit it due to laziness?

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    Phrased like that, I would also say "I am on floor two" and not "I am on the floor two." It's just the way it is said. If it were laziness, we wouldn't bother with any articles. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 17:05
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    @WeatherVane does it mean two options exist - "I am on floor two" and "I am on the second floor"?
    – Let
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 20:02
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    That's right, but as @pboss3010 pointed out below, there can be confusion as to which is the "second floor". USA and UK have different floor numbering. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 20:03
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    Yes, in USA the "first floor" is at ground level, in UK it is the one above the ground floor, and in the lifts (elevators) there is a G button. But if you refer to the label on the floor, there's no confusion. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 20:06
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    The definite article is not omitted due to laziness. It is omitted correctly. It is incorrect to put it here. Yes, "the second floor", but never "the floor two"
    – Boann
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


I don't think there is such a thing as "laziness" in grammar. You can't just omit things in the middle of a sentence because you feel lazy and have a grammatically correct sentence.

The reason why floors 2 and 3 is used without an article is because in English we usually don't use definite articles in front of things that have numbers following them. That's a well-known fact. For example, when you're staying at a hotel, you would say this when talking about rooms:

I'm staying in room #35.

One way to think about this is that the number 35 uniquely identifies the room you're talking about and 35 (or 35th) is not being used as an adjective describing the room like in the example down below where you would need a definite article:

the 35th room

Again, just think of 35th as an adjective describing a specific room that you have in mind.

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    Room 35, door 9, car 54, boat 6. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 17:45
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    Further to this, given the potential for odd labeling of floors, saying "between floor 2 and floor 3" specifies you mean the floors labeled 2 and 3, ignoring potential confusion of what exactly is the second floor.
    – pboss3010
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 17:48
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    It should be size-10 shoes (you don't necessarily need a hyphen, but you can have it there for more clarity if you want to). Size-10 is acting as an adjective that describes the shoes that you're talking about. A size-10 shoes is grammatically wrong because the article a is supposed to go with shoes (size-10 is an adjective describing the shoes as I said), but shoes is plural! That's just wrong grammar. A size-10 is really just the abbreviation for a pair of size-10 shoes. That's why an article appears in front of size-10. That's how I understand all this. Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 22:25
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    You could have "a size-10 shoe", referring to a single shoe.
    – David
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 7:06
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    "Room 35" would be if the room is actually /labeled/ "35". You would rarely say "the 35th room", as no one likes to count that high for ordinals (too easy to lose track and miscount). "Boat 6" and "the 6th boat" could be interchangeable, if it's clear to see that there is a sign "Boat 6" /or/ it's easy to count boats 1, 2, 3,... up to the 6th. In general, if there is a sign for the room (or boat or floor) number, use that to avoid miscounting or accidentally using a different convention (e.g., "Ground floor" versus "1st floor" versus "Floor 1").
    – Phil Perry
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 4:40
  • We were between floors when the elevator broke down. [i.e. not specific and plural]

No the. idiom: to be between two things in the plural.

However, if you then want to be specific, you would say:

  • We were between floors 2 and 3 when the elevator broke down.


We were between the 2nd and 3rd floors when the elevator broke down.

  • We were between two jobs when we got the call.
  • We were between two major highways on a side road.

A plural noun after between does not require the before the noun.

However, you could say: We were between the two floors [if the floors have already been mentioned; the floors in question] when the elevator broke down.

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    The focus on between in this answer is misleading — between is irrelevant here. The issue is just the difference between floor two (cardinal number after noun, no article) and the second floor (ordinal number before noun, definite article).
    – PLL
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 10:14
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    @PLL Notice to tenants: Second floor apartments will be painted next week.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 14:11

You confusion here is that you're not properly differentiating between what it means to be on "the 4th floor" vs. being on "floor 4".

Being on "floor 4" means you are on the floor named/labeled "4". The name of it is "floor 4".

Being on "the 4th floor" means you're on the floor that is the 4th one.

For floors these things typically coincide, so we use the ways of saying it interchangeably. But the grammar difference between the two concepts is what you're noticing.

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