YAGT: A versus An

simms

Diamond Member
Sep 21, 2001
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A or An?
According to The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style, "The indefinite article a is used before words beginning with a consonant sound, including /y/ and /w/ sounds. The other form, an, is used before words beginning with a vowel sound. Hence, a European country, a Ouija board, a uniform, an FBI agent, an MBA degree, an SEC filing.

Writers on usage formerly disputed whether the correct article is a or an with historian, historic, and a few other words. The traditional rule is that if the h- is sounded, a is the proper form. Most people following that rule would say a historian and a historic--e.g.:'Democrat Bill Clinton appears within reach of capturing the White House in Tuesday's election, but Republicans hope that late momentum, can enable President Bush to win a historic upset' (Dallas Morning News). Even H.W. Fowler, in the England of 1926, advocated a before historic(al) and humble (MEU1).
The theory behind using an in such a context, however, is that the h- is very weak when the accent is on the second rather than the first syllable (giving rise, by analogy, to an habitual offender, an humanitarian, an hallucinatory image, and an harassed schoolteacher). Thus no authority countenances an history[emphasis added], though a few older ones prefer an historian and an historical.
Today, however, an hypothesis and an historical are likely to strike readers and listeners as affectations. As Mark Twain once wrote, referring to humble, heroic, and historical: 'Correct writers of the American language do not put an before those words' (The Stolen White Elephant,1882). Anyone who sounds the h- in such words should avoid pretense and use a (Garner 1).
 

simms

Diamond Member
Sep 21, 2001
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a European country, a Ouija board, a uniform, an FBI agent, an MBA degree, an SEC filing.
 

amol

Lifer
Jul 8, 2001
11,679
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Originally posted by: simms
a European country, a Ouija board, a uniform, an FBI agent, an MBA degree, an SEC filing.

a YOU-ropean country, a wee-ja board, a you-niform, an ef-BI agent, an em-BA degree, an es-EC filing
 

her209

No Lifer
Oct 11, 2000
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Originally posted by: Shawn
Is english not your first language?
I learned to speak English after I learned to speak my native tongue as a kid. But I am fluent in both.
 

Mrvile

Lifer
Oct 16, 2004
14,066
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That you're fluent in English. How can you not see that UNIFORM begins with a Y sound while UNDERLING begins with a U sound. AN and A are dictated by the sound of the word, not the spelling.
 

her209

No Lifer
Oct 11, 2000
56,352
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Originally posted by: Mrvile
That you're fluent in English. How can you not see that UNIFORM begins with a Y sound while UNDERLING begins with a U sound. AN and A are dictated by the sound of the word, not the spelling.
What about eulogy? That begins with a Y sound doesn't it?
 

HonkeyDonk

Diamond Member
Oct 14, 2001
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Originally posted by: her209
Originally posted by: Mrvile
Yes, eulogy begins with a Y sound, therefore it is A EULOGY.
So what about an opening and an optometrist?

holy crap you're retarded.

It's already been explained in detail in the posts above.

please re-read those instead of repeating the same idiotic questions. k thx.