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How should I go about such cases when I present something new in my narration and, therefore, should use indefinite article "a/an" right before each new thing, but there are two many of those new things?

For example:

Once we were covering different professions during the lesson and when Peter saw a flashcard with a picture of a policeman on it, he asked, "Have you heard about the recent riots in the USA sparked by the death of George Floyd?"

Is the usage of article "a" in the words put in bold in this example not too excessive?

If yes, how should I reduce it here and in similar cases?

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  • What about "Peter saw a flashcard depicting a policeman"? – Micah Windsor Jun 3 '20 at 2:38
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Your example does not contain an exessive use of the indefinite article "a." It is natural and correct.

If there was only one flashcard in the set with a policeman on it, it is also correct to say "the flashcard," but then one must be prepared to explain the significance of that specific flashcard, i.e. that this is a set and that there is only one like it in the set. That seems like excessive explanation, since the flashcard was not the point of the story; the important point was the question it raised in Peter's mind. For this reason, I think it is quite appropriate to say "a flashcard."

It is not possible to change any of the other indefinite articles because there are any number of pictures of policemen that can be put on flashcards, and any number of policemen whose pictures can be used. In those cases, one must use the indefinite article "a."

There is a way to tighten up that little story. Remove the word "and" between "lesson" and "when," like this:

Once we were covering different professions during the lesson. When Peter saw a flashcard with a picture of a policeman on it, he asked, "Have you heard about the recent riots in the USA sparked by the death of George Floyd?"

See how that freshens it up? You no longer notice all the indefinite articles. But if it really bothers you, you can put "the" in front of "flashcard" and explain when/if someone asks. On second thought, it would sound natural, too.

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  • "Your example does not contain an excessive use of the indefinite article "a."" While this may be true, I'm often bothered by repetition in a sentence as well. Maybe it's an OCD thing, but keep in mind that "too much" is subjective. – Micah Windsor Jun 3 '20 at 2:41
  • I provided objective reasons to support my argument. If you provide the same for your argument, I am willing to consider it. – Sarah Bowman Jun 3 '20 at 2:45
  • You want me to prove that I'm annoyed by repetition? That's like asking a person who claims they didn't receive a shipment to send photo evidence that they did not receive it. But here is a relevant meme. I also commented an alternative that gets rid of one instance of "a" on the original post. – Micah Windsor Jun 3 '20 at 2:53

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