Does a singular noun after the word "between" need an article?

For example in the following interrogative sentence:

What is the difference between a word to sentence?

I am not sure if I need to put here an article (where I emphasized)

1 Answer 1


To begin with, we do not use to in this construction, but and:

What is the difference between A and B?

Beyond that, what article (or other determiner) you use with A and B depends on the discourse context; the use of difference between is irrelevant:

  • A and B may take determiners of the same category or different categories.
  • If A (or B) has been specifically identified in the discourse, or is familiar to your hearers, you use the or some other definite determiner; if it has not been identified, or if no specific entity is intended, use a or some other indefinite determiner.

What is the difference between a job and a profession? ... Both job and profession designate any member, not a specific member, of that category.

What is the difference between the job we have just described and a profession? ... Job designates an identified specific entity, profession designates any member of that category.

What is the difference between the pronoun in example A and the pronoun in example B? ... *Both pronouns are identified specific entities.

What is the difference between the job John holds and the job of his CEO? ... Both jobs are identified specific entities.

There are of course many other rules—for instance, proper nouns are inherently determinate and take no article—but they're all the same rules that apply in any other situation.

  • Thanks. If I understand you well you're saying that I should you an article always after "between" (I didn't ask about the type of article, generally I know how to use them. a/an for indefinite or the for definite). That's right? Feb 13, 2016 at 21:05
  • @Assiduous There's no particular rule with between: just whatever other rules are relevant. Feb 13, 2016 at 21:20
  • I'm really sorry, but in the bottom line I really don't understand the answer. Should I say "what is the difference between a donkey and a horse" or can I say "what is the difference between donkey and horse"? Feb 13, 2016 at 21:27
  • @Assiduous Ordinarily we use a here, just as we would in asking What is a donkey/horse; but What is the difference between butter and margarine?, just as you would ask "What is butter?" Feb 13, 2016 at 21:40
  • Ok, now I think I understand :) Feb 13, 2016 at 21:55

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