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'A' or 'an'?

Let's focus on one of the smaller grammatical errors that come up and can easily be missed. This can make a massive difference in your writing; especially if you're sending your work to an editor, or a lecturer for marking.


a/ an


This rule can be a frustrating one and may seem pointless to you. However, it's really simple, and once you know it, that's it. I think that's why once you do know it, it's obvious when someone else has made that mistake.



The Simple Rule:


Please note: this rule is based on sound.



'An' Is used in front of a word that begins with a vowel (A,E,I,O,U)



'A' is used in front of a word that begins with a consonant (Any other letter)




A dog


An apple


A carrot


An Octopus


A chair


An echo



See a pattern here?


Now with adjectives...



A funny elephant


(Even though elephant begins with a vowel, funny begins with a consonant, you determine which one you use (a or an) with the first word that follows)


An amazing singer


A little boy


An interesting article



Just remember, a and an are referring to a singular noun (referring to one thing), therefore you wouldn't use an or a when talking about a plural.


For example:


You wouldn't say: 'There was a dogs'


You would say: 'There was two dogs'


And finally, this is where things become a little bit more complicated...



There are some exceptions to this rule



This rule is based off sound, more than spelling. If a word begins with a vowel but sounds like it begins with a consonant, then you would use 'A'. And vice versa.


For example:


Euro - begins with a vowel, but is pronounced 'yu-ro'. Therefore it would be:


A Euro


University - begins with a vowel but sounds like it's pronounced with a Y. Therefore it would be:


A University


Alternatively,

Hour - begins with a consonant but sound like it begins with an 'a'. Therefore it would be:


An Hour


Then, of course we must consider how we pronounce words differently in different accents too (which I know, makes things even more confusing).


And finally, there are some words that won't use 'an' or 'a'. These words are uncountable, for example air, love, water, fun.





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