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Which of these examples is correct, and why?

(1) The first, second, and the third.

(2) The United States, European Union, and the United Kingdom.

OR

(1) The first, the second, and the third.

(2) The United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom.

I have read and heard all of these sentences before. Are they all correct?

2 Answers 2

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To be consistent, either use the definite article the in front of each example or only at the start of the sentence.

It's merely a question of style. (Some writers would insert a comma before and as well.)

The first, second and third. Or
The first, the second and the third.

The United States, European Union and United Kingdom. Or
The United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Which style you prefer might be influenced by the context. This is a question of judgement rather than a rule:

The votes were cast by the US, the EU and the UK.
They criticised the US, EU and UK among other delegations.

The first, second and third places all went to new competitors.
The judges were impressed by the entries from X school and awarded them not only the first prize, but the second and the third as well.

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This is what I think about tone, not correctness:

For (1) I would want "the" either first only or all three times, not first and last.

To my ear (2) requires "the" each time since each of the three political entities is a collection. Saying just "United Kingdom" sounds wrong to me.

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