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In day-to-day conversation, we often use the phrases this way...

Whatever it is, game is game
Whether you like it or not, gift is gift
Believe it or not, record is record

In all these expressions, do we use an indefinite article? Or, it's okay without it? In either case, how? Why?

Whatever it is, a game is a game
Whether you like it or not, a gift is a gift
Believe it or not, a record is a record.

Or, is this acceptable?

Whatever it is, a game is game (no article second time?)

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    Use the same thing both times: definite, indefinite, or no article as appropriate.
    – user230
    Sep 9, 2014 at 12:03
  • I see. Thanks @snailplane I had a doubt about it as I have read all the styles. But again, as a native, which style do you prefer? Also, how is it correct to have no article?
    – Maulik V
    Sep 9, 2014 at 12:11

1 Answer 1

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As snailplane comments on the question,

Use the same thing both times: definite, indefinite, or no article as appropriate.

To determine what is appropriate, there are some general rules and there's almost certainly at least one relevant question on ELL.

  1. A mass noun or a plural takes no article

    Whatever else it is, water is water
    Whatever else they are, lions are lions

  2. A generic reference to a singular thing uses the indefinite article

    Whether you like it or not, a gift is a gift

  3. A reference to a specific thing which is in context uses the definite article

    Believe it or not, the record is the record.

Because you are emphasising that A is B, whatever else might pertain, it's necessary to keep both halves of the phrase the same with the same article (or none) either side of the copula be. Changing the article radically changes the expression from "That's just the way it is" to something specific:

  1. Whether you like it or not, the gift is a gift

    That is, that gift which we're talking about really is a gift and you don't need to pay for it.

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