be it plane, helicopter, car or robot -- why is there no article in front of "plane"?




Be it plane, helicopter, car or robot, power has different forms. Accelerating slowly but eventually going as fast as you can takes the same amount of power as accelerating a heavy load quickly but not topping out at a very fast speed.

I asked a friend of mine, who's an American, to check this sentence, which he did, and he said that there were no problems regarding its grammatical structure and everything in that sentence sounded absolutely fine to him, but apart from just saying that the sentence sounded fine to him, however, he failed to provide a coherent explanation as to why there is no article at least before the word plane that starts off the list. And what would be wrong with saying it like this:

Be it a plane, helicopter, car or robot, power has different forms.

Michael Rybkin

Posted 2015-09-30T14:35:04.877

Reputation: 37 124

4I think it's because those nouns are used as adjectives... Or perhaps because they designate "classes" of things, not individual items. – Victor Bazarov – 2015-09-30T14:37:37.777

Related: '[That] includes publisher and date' — no article?. I think this is similar to my example. In my own words, the speaker/writer is in the "listing" mode.

– Damkerng T. – 2015-09-30T16:30:55.237

Well, that's definitely a lot closer to the truth than what the gentleman before you wrote in his answer witch he has now deleted, but this matter still deserves a substantial explanation. – Michael Rybkin – 2015-09-30T17:11:38.280

I don't know about the grammar, but the science is so wrong that I cannot even guess what was intended! Power, used in a scientific context, is the rate of expenditure or delivery of energy. Slower acceleration of the same object means less power. For a specified object, its velocity determines the amount of kinetic energy it possesses. – nigel222 – 2015-09-30T18:03:46.747



Your friend is correct about there being no problem with that sentence, however saying

Be it a Plane, Helicopter, Car or Robot, power has different forms.

Would also be correct, the only differences are the different connotations, for example

Be it a Plane, Helicopter, Car or Robot, power has different forms.

Makes the sentence sound more specific about the Planes, Helicopters, Cars and Robots. Not that they are necessarily talking about a specific plane, but it makes the sentence sound less general.

Now this sentence.

Be it Plane, helicopter, Cars or Robots, power has its different forms.

Without the a in the sentence it sounds more general, be it Planes... Planes as a whole, planes just in general.

But they aren't necessarily saying plane as a plural just talking more generally.

Sam Harrington

Posted 2015-09-30T14:35:04.877

Reputation: 1 248

Agreed, without an article, "it" is assumed to be a generalized "whatever it may be," not something that is actually present or specific. So without the article, you're talking about planes, cars and robots in general. With it, you are talking about something specific which may be 1 of those 3 things. – Crazy Eyes – 2015-09-30T17:41:28.723

1I think using "a" before "plane" is better. +1) – None – 2015-11-24T08:42:21.153


I want to know what you have in your pocket, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral.

I will agree with Victor and say that these are references to the classes themselves (not to a member of the class), the class names used as predicate adjectives.


Posted 2015-09-30T14:35:04.877

Reputation: 116 610