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A vs. An

Blending article sounds before nouns

Prounciation
 

 

A or an before consonants or vowels

A

Before a consonant sound (not spelling), speakers use the article a – /ə/ when stressed /eɪ/.

This is a global business.   /ˈgloʊbəl/ 

We have a hundred employees.  /ˈhʌndrɪd/

The company has a CEO.     /si/  CEO – chief executive officer

The director has a university e-mail address.  /ˌyunəˈvɜrsɪti/
 

AN

Before a vowel sound (not spelling), speakers use the article an – /ən/ when stressed /æn/. The /n/ serves as a transition sound between two vowel sounds.

This is an electronic business. /ɪlɛkˈtrɒnɪk, ˌilɛk-/

We have an eight-hundred-employee company.  /eɪt/

The company has an NIH grant.   /ˈɛn/  NIH – National Institute of Health

The director has an unlisted e-mail address.  /ʌnˈlɪstɪd/

 

IPA Pronunciation Key
global (adj.) – world
employee (n.) – worker

 

 

 

 

A / An

Before a Vowel Sound

 

 

 

The pronunciation determines the spelling!

A

Using a or an depends on pronunciation, which may vary among speakers of English around the world.  Words beginning with h, u, w and y need special attention.  Pronouncing the word helps us decide which article to use.

BEFORE A CONSONANT SOUND

a baby, a lemon, a car, a kiss
 

BEFORE AN H SOUND IN A STRESSED SYLLABLE

a housewife, a hurricane, a history, a horror movie, a helicopter, a hanger, a handkerchief, a herb /hɜrb/  Eng-Br 
 

BEFORE AN H SOUND IN AN UNSTRESSED SYLLABLE

a hotel, a horrific event, a historical event,  a hysterical moment, a hypothesis The use of a/an varies in these words depending on whether h, is pronouncd or is silent. 
 

BEFORE A W SOUND

a one-hour break /wʌn–/, a wonderful life, not a one

BEFORE A Y SOUND

a university  /yu-/, a unit, a eulogy, a youth
 

AN

An is used before words with silent initial letters and with some letters and numbers. Syllable stress in words of multiple syllables also affects a speaker's choice of a or an.                      

BEFORE A VOWEL SOUND

an apple, an eye, an opening, an urn, an initial

BEFORE SILENT H IN A STRESSED SYLLABLE

an hour, an honor, an honest man, *an herb  /ɜrb/  Eng-US,

BEFORE SILENT H IN AN UNSTRESSED SYLLABLE

an hotel, an horrific event, an historical event,  an hysterical moment, an hypothesis 
Pop-Q "historical"
 

BEFORE SOME NAMES OF LETTERS

an MP, an NAACP resolution, give me an A, give me an R, give me an S
 

BEFORE SOME NUMBER

an 800 number, an 11-person group,

 

 

*herb /hɜrb/  Eng-Br, /ɜrb/  Eng-US (n.) – a small plant that is used to improve the taste of food or to make medicine

honour Eng-Br, honor Eng-US (n.)

World Wide Words  "The situation is complicated by a shift that has been taking place in the pronunciation of words with initial h over the past couple of centuries." 

"a/an". Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Springfield, Massachusetts, 1993. p. 1.  

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Taking a Prep Course

Taking a prep course

 

 

 

Select the a or an form.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1.

2.


 SAT – Scholastic Appititude Test

3.

4.
.  

prep – short for preparation

5.

6.

7.

8.
, you have to follow

9.

 
iPhone – Apple's mobile/cellular phone,
Galaxy  – Samsung mobile/cellular phone using Android operating system.

10.


honor Eng-US, honour Eng-Br  

11.


nerve-racking (adj.) – makes you feel very nervous or worried

12.


800 – is a perfect score on a particular section of verbal or math skills (U.S.)