A or An?

A loyal reader suggested I go over when you use each of these adjectives.

We all were taught early on to use “a” before a word starting with a consonant and “an” before a word beginning with a vowel.  But following that rule can sometimes get you in trouble.

It’s not whether a word begins with a consonant or vowel.  What is important iswhat it sounds like the word starts with:

“Hour” starts with a consonant—but we say/write “an hour” because the “h” is silent.

We also say/write “a yellow dog.”  “Y” is considered to be a type of vowel, but here it definitely has the sound of a consonant.

It was considered correct until fairly recently to use “an” before “history,” “historian,” “historical” [film/book/play, etc.], but the Association of Cranky English Teachers (of which I am a charter member) decided it was also fine to use “a” before such words.

So with “a” and “an,” use your ears, not your eyes.



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