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Example 1:

He is going to buy a computer or (a) tablet.

Now here he is going to buy a powerful computer or a tablet or both.

Does with/without "a" make any difference in meaning?

Does omitting "the," "a," or "an" when the items are joined by a conjunction affect the meaning of a sentence?

Or it is just a choice of style?

1 Answer 1

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My instinctive response is to say that it does not affect the meaning at all.

Upon reflection, I suppose that "a" lends itself more easily to an intonation that suggests that these are just examples of what he might buy, whereas without "a" it sounds like he's narrowed down his choices to those two.

There are cases where it does make a clear difference, specifically when it comes to qualifier scope. For example, "a fast computer or laptop" vs. "a fast computer or a laptop" -- with the repeated determiner, the adjective can only apply to the first item.

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  • Does this also apply to other articles? Weather I repeat other articles like the or these or those does not affect the meaning, right?
    – vincentlin
    Nov 5, 2022 at 8:15
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    @vincentlin Right -- the logic would be similar. Although with the deictics (this, that, these, those) you might repeat them while emphasizing them and even pointing: Do you want THIS computer or THIS computer? Nov 5, 2022 at 13:03

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