Sunday, October 5, 2008

44. Is It A or AN, Mr. Anchorman?

Hello, again, Everybody. It's good to have you back, ready to tackle some more grammar problems. Today's lesson is such a simple one that you should be able to master it in no time at all.

Have you ever heard anyone make a mistake like the following?

" Judy wrote her friend a thank-you note expressing appreciation for AN unique gift."


" Lillian has AN one-year subscription to People magazine."

If so, you are in good company, since it seems that lots of folks learned this rule ...but only part of it.

Here's the rule: "A" is used before consonant SOUNDS and "AN" is used before vowel SOUNDS without any regard for whether the letter is a consonant or vowel.

Did you remember all of this rule...especially the part about SOUNDS?

It appears that what most people do is interpret the rule this way: "A" precedes all consonants and "AN" precedes all vowels. Not so! As with so many other rules, there are exceptions and here they are:

We seem to find more problems with words that begin with "H" ( a consonant letter), "U" (a vowel letter) and "O" (another vowel letter.)

"H" is silent at the beginning of just a few words: hour, honest, herbal . When this happens, "AN" precedes the word: an hour, an honest man, an herbal cup of tea,etc. When "H" is not silent, "A" precedes the word: a history book, a historical figure, a hurricane, etc.

"AN" is also used when the word following the article is a short "U" as seen in these words: an uncle, an umbrella, and an undertaker. Notice that even though these three words begin with the vowel "U", they don't sound like a long "U" . Therefore, we must classify them as an exception to the rule for another reason.

"A" is also used before words that have a "yew" or long "A" sound: a eulogy, a Utah student, a university, etc. Therefore, even though the examples here begin with a vowel, the correct word to use is "A", not "AN" because eulogy, Utah, and university begin with a "yew" or long "A" sound.

...And that's all there is to it. Pretty easy, huh? I hope this makes sense to you! I'm signing off for another day, wishing the very best to all. Thanks for the continued comments and suggestions for new lessons. I love hearing from you! Peace, happiness, and laughter, GG


Sudam said...

Good resources on fundamental use of article.

Grammar Guide said...

Thanks for commenting. Have a great day! GG

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