Are there any rules for omitting an article after the word "with"?

  1. for instance, a sentence I see a lot is:

    The procedure fails with small probability

    rather than with a small probability.

  2. What happens when we have a possession of the form: <object1> with (a/?) <object2> where the first object is plural, but the second is not. E.g.,

    procedures with a fixed cost


    procedures with fixed cost

    ... or maybe a simpler example: cars with radio vs. cars with a radio.


3 Answers 3


The sentence you posted looks wrong partly because a "probability" is really low-high, not small-large. The correct sentence would be more along the lines of:

The procedure fails with low probability

I know that doesn't answer your question, but without correcting that either answer will "look" a little wrong, making it harder for you to judge the issue of article placement.

Now to the answer: You can miss the article because "probability" isn't really an object. You can't hold a probability, nor can you eat, have, hold or throw one. As such, it's not really something that "needs" an article.

Personally, I'd still use "with a" in that sentence, as I think it's both "more" correct and sounds better.

The procedure fails with a low probability

Then again, I'm still not sure the sentence makes sense :p does probability usually affect an outcome? Or does it simply describe the likelihood of an outcome? That's probably a question for another day.


I'm going to place a bet on the idea that the article differentiates between a defined object and a concept. This doesn't discredit the other answers here which are respectable in their own right.

The concept of 'low probability' is just that: a concept, an idea. To attribute this concept to something like a procedure says that the procedure has a low chance of failing. 'A low probability' implies that there is a defined probability for this object instead of just declaring that there is a low chance of something happening.

For 'procedures with fixed cost' I would include the article, because in this example you would define a fixed cost: a 'fixed cost' isn't really a concept, nor is it the same for each procedure.

The same follows with the car example: each car has its own radio, hence 'cars with a radio', or, even better, 'cars with radios'.


The inclusion of the article implies a defined object instead of the concept of one. Consider the difference in meaning between 'drugs' and 'some drugs', or 'alcohol' and 'some alcohol' or 'friendship' and 'a friendship'.

Trivia: It's the opposite in Spanish. 'Las drogas' is the concept while 'drogas' is the objects.

  • MMJZ, I just spent half an hour trying to think my way to what you've already posted. Curses; foiled again! Then, you lost me with '… fixed cost' being different from '… low probability.' How do 'cost' and 'probability' vary, as parts of speech, please? Jan 13, 2017 at 21:03

Hmmm there are interesting answers here. However, I would try to forget the differentiation between concepts (like probability) and physical constructs (like a probability). These are not that well defined in English grammar for anyone to prescribe the correct usage of. That being said, as a descriptive grammar I would agree with @Jon Story.

The prevalence is to use the article - stick with that and you will not go far wrong.

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