“…[a] full program”?

I’m writing a code challenge, and in the challenge description wrote:

It can be a function, or full program.

This slipped by me for almost a day now, but now that I reread it, I’m wondering if the wording is wonky. It sounds like there should be a “a” before “full”:

It can be a function, or a full program.

This might just be so it mirrors “a function”, but it sounds weird if you drop the “a” before “function”.

Which is considered more correct?

Answer

Programs are countable, just like functions. Thus its need for an article is the same. Contrast with, It can be a function or water. The only change I would make to your second example is to eliminate the comma. Use:

It can be a function or a full program.

English, especially spoken English, is sometimes loose. My ear doesn’t really mind, “It can be a function or full program.” That is probably why you wrote it in the first place and lived with it until now. But technically the scope of a ends with function; it does not silently clone itself after the or. What if instead of “full program”, you said “executable program”? Surely the a could not both clone itself and grow an n.

(added) It occurs to me in lists it can be okay to drop repeated indefinite articles. I bought a mechanical pencil, slide rule, protractor, and a Mr. Goodbar.” Here the a does sort of clone itself up until the “and”. You can’t really get away with not including it at the end, though. Also, it would not be wrong to include the article before each item. We must have voted way back when to make it optional.

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Carcigenicate , Answer Author : RichF

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