Using “a” or “an” Grammar Rules

Have you ever wondered when to use “a” or “an“? Are you using “a” or “an” correctly? There seems to be a great deal of confusion about using “a” or “an” in front of other words.

Well, there is a set of “a” or “an” rules to follow so that your sentences don’t sound grammatically awkward. Although the rule can be explained as the proper usage of the indefinite articles “a” or “an” in cases preceded by an article that specifies the definiteness of the noun, that seems to only further confuse people so here is a very easy and clear explanation.

So is it a or an?

a or an icon “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

I have A dog

I have A corvette

I have A union (union begins with the sound “yoo”)

I have A one family home (one begins with the sound “wuh”)

 

a or an icon “an” should be used before words that begin with vowel sounds (a,e,i,)

I have An ipad

I have An egg

I have An apricot

So therefore usage is determined by pronunciation and not spelling

 

The exceptions to these rules are:

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Although it’s not exactly an exception, the subject of abbreviations and acronyms can become somewhat confusing. It is important understand that even though a word is recited as “unidentified flying object” the abbreviation is “UFO” so

I saw An unidentified flying object today

I saw A UFO today (UFO begins with the sound “yoo”)

The same goes with MRI and MBA

I had An MRI today (MRI begins with the sound “em”)

I have An MBA (MBA begins with the sound “em”)

Read below for more exceptions..

 

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Using “a” or “an” before h

a or an historicalIs it “a historical landmark” or “an historical landmark”?

This is one of several examples that can be in some cases become a true exception to the rule. Let’s explore this and other examples of possible exceptions.

Do you use a or an before h?

The use “a” or “an” before h is a very tricky case that often arises either when writing or speaking. Is it “a” or “an” hour, “a” or “an” historic?

The problem is that words that begin with the letter “h” sometimes begin with the consonant sound of “h” and sometimes the “h” is unsounded.

So in the case of those that begin with consonant sounds “a” is used:

He is A heroic figure

He fought A hideous monster

In the case of those that begin with an unsounded “h” then “an” is used:

It was An honorable gesture

He is An honest real estate broker

Exceptions to these rules in speaking:

Public Speaker a or an hYou will find that in many cases public speakers (more often British than American will use “an” on letters beginning with h that contain more than 3 syllables.

So they will say “a history textbook” but “an historical event”. Another example is where they will say “a habit” but “an habitual offender”. If one sticks to the phonetic rules they should be fine in most cases.

A highly recommended books for dealing with these cases is The English Language: A User’s Guide by Jack Lynch. Click the image to look inside.

The English Language by Jack Lynch

Other commonly referenced examples using “a” or “an”

a or an historic?

 “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

This A historic event

a or an hour?

 “an” should be used before words that begin with vowel sounds (a,e,i,)

I have An hour to speak (hour begins with an unsounded h)

a or an unique?

 “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

That is A unique home (unique begins with the sound “yoo”)

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a or an university?

 “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

Harvard is university (university begins with the sound “yoo”)

a or an european?

 “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

I drive A european car (european begins with the sound “yoo”)

a or an year?

 “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

I left for A year (unique begins with the sound “yea”)

a or an useful?

 “a” should be used before words that begin with consonant sounds (b,c,d,f,g..)

This is A useful site (useful begins with the sound “yoo”)

Common Grammar Mistakes

common grammar mistakesWhether you are writing a resume, business letter or proposal, or even blogging the practice of proper grammar helps communicate your message effectively. Poor grammar detracts from your credibility and can possibly cost you a job, project or readers to your blog.

Aside from a or an grammar usage, here are the 5 most common grammar mistakes you should avoid..

Don’t make these Common Grammar Mistakes!

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