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After searching online for some time, I still haven't found anything quite like my question (which probably indicates that I'm wrong). Even though English is my native language I just found out that I'm prone to saying the following sentence in this way (spoken not written language):

I drank from an a hundred millilitre bottle.

Even though the "an a" is probably redundant, it still feels correct to say it like this (of course we may substitute the "an a" for "a one"). Am I the only native speaker making this mistake or is this some kind of regional nuance / slang that I'm unaware of (I'm from South West England)?

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    I wouldn't dignify this doubled-up article usage with the label "slang". It's evidence of "linguistic incompetence". Commented Feb 5 at 17:38
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    @FumbleFingers What part of the UK are you from? If enough people say it it's not linguistic incompetence anyway.
    – David
    Commented Feb 5 at 18:23
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    @David - it's a bit like saying 'would of', 'could of', should of' etc, I suppose, which make me shudder. Lots of people say and write those, and they are definitely very wrong in standard English. Commented Feb 5 at 18:41
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    Sure, if enough people say it, it must be more or less "valid". But you're asked Am I the only native speaker making this "mistake"?, which strongly implies you don't claim to have heard many (any?) other native Anglophones saying it. I don't think it's remotely comparable to people saying I would of done that, which is primarily a spelling issue anyway (we can't distinguish abbreviated have = 've from of). I'm from UK SE too, btw. Commented Feb 5 at 19:07
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    Duplicate on ELU: "A hundred" treated as one word in speech (extra indefinite article)
    – Laurel
    Commented Feb 5 at 20:40

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From a grammar standpoint, it's wrong, plain and simple. The reason it is being so heavily debated is because we can see the reasoning behind why someone could think it's correct.

You're probably thinking that:

  1. We say "a hundred" to mean "one hundred", so they are technically interchangeable.
  2. The measurement of "100 ml" forms part of the name of the bottle, is, therefore, a compound noun, and compound nouns can be preceded by an article.

But, the indefinite article cannot form part of a countable compound noun. Logically, a common noun is countable and you denote the number either with a numeral (eg "one bottle") or a determiner, such as an article (eg "a bottle", "that bottle", or "my bottle).

There's nothing wrong with saying "a hundred" instead of "one hundred" if the context allows it, but just as we adjust the form of the indefinite article (a/an) to fit the context, there's no argument for saying we can say it with an article that sounds unnatural. Saying "the a hundred ml bottle" or "an a hundred ml bottle" sounds unnatural because it is, just as saying "a apple" instead of "an apple" sounds weird (and is incorrect).

The exception to the 'rule' of not having an article as part of a compound noun would be proper nouns. I can think of a few bands with articles in their names such as "The Beatles" or "A Flock of Seagulls". You'll notice that, in common use, English speakers modify names like these to avoid the awkward, unnatural use of two articles. They might drop the article and say "I'm a Beatles fan", instead of "I am a 'The Beatles' fan"; or say "I'm a fan of A Flock of Seagulls" and not "I'm a A Flock of Seagulls fan". So, there's plenty of precedent for adjusting the way we say something if the article makes it unnatural.

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  • +1 and I'd go further about the band names and say native speakers omit articles at the beginning of band names rather than duplicating them: "I'm a Beatles fan", and "I'm a Flock of Seagulls fan".
    – gotube
    Commented Feb 6 at 20:15
  • @gotube I don't make the mistake with band names. It sounds horrible. When I originally posted my question I already knew that it wasn't completely acceptable given that it looks horrible in its written form. I was wondering whether it was more of a grey area and hence acceptable in spoken language or at least in South West England.
    – David
    Commented Feb 7 at 12:29

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