1. Martinengo New Member

    Español, Venezuela
    I've learned that you use an when the next word starts with a wovel, but I'm not sure if this applies in all the cases and situations.

    For instance, is it right to say a uniform or an uniform?, is it right to say an italian or a italian?

    Is there any rule for this?

    Thank you. :)
  2. The Newt

    The Newt Senior Member

    USA / EEUU
    English - US
    A uniform, but an Italian. The rule applies to sound, not spelling, so uniform, which begins with a consonantal sound, doesn't need to be preceded by "an."
  3. Martinengo New Member

    Español, Venezuela
    Can you explain me more about the consonantal sound?, please. :)

    I want to be able to understand this, haha.

    Thank you again, you are very kind.
  4. The Newt

    The Newt Senior Member

    USA / EEUU
    English - US
    Beause English spelling is inconsistent, we have to distinguish between:

    an umbrella
    a uniform

    The reason is that "umbrella" begins with a true vowel, but the initial sound in "uniform" in English is a consonant (the one you would write with ll- as in llamar).
  5. Martinengo New Member

    Español, Venezuela
    Ohhh, I understand, thank you.
  6. levmac

    levmac Senior Member

    No longer here.
    I agree more or less, except I don't know if the u in English is exactly like the ll (although many English speakers might pronounce it like that).

    To me, the closest equivalent in Spanish is "iu". This is obviously a vowel sound in Spanish, but not in English.

    University = iu ni

    Any word like this is with "a". A union, a unicorn, a university, a useless invention.

    @Martinengo - the other thing to note is that you can have "an" before the silent "h" too. This is related to Newt's point about it being the sound, not the letter, that is important.

    It's an honour.
  7. JennyTW Senior Member

    Córdoba, Spain
    English - UK
    Yes, it may not be similar to everyone's "ll" sound.
    Think of it as being the same as words beginning with "y".

    A yo-yo. A university

    Good point about the silent "h", and remember too that with letter names we have to take the initial sound into account.

    An "H", an "N", an "X", a "U" etc. This is important when acronyms are pronounced as individual letters.
    So .... A US president, an NHS hospital, an X-rated film etc.
    But ......a NATO member (because NATO is pronounced as a word and it begins with the sound /n/).
  8. The Newt

    The Newt Senior Member

    USA / EEUU
    English - US
    That's a good point, especially if you think of the pronunciation of ll in, say, Buenos Aires dialect, which is nothing like the initial sound in uniform.

    I believe the initial sound in uniform is called a yod in phonology. In any case, phonetically it's a consonant or semi-consonant.
  9. logan_1974 Member

    Madrid, España
    Español, España
    In Spain (and I´d say in most Spanish-speaking countries), there is no difference in the way to pronuonce both sounds LL/Y. It´s something very specific of some Spanish-speaking countries (Argentina, Uruguay... and I can´t remember any other one right now).
  10. levmac

    levmac Senior Member

    No longer here.
    Note that the original comparison was between the Spanish ll and the English y.

    I would say:

    - The English y is similar to, but different than, even the most standardised version of the ll or the Spanish y (i.e. don't even start on the Argentinian/Uruguayan version!)

    - Many Spanish speakers might not distinguish between lluvia and yeso, but the English sound is more like the ie in hielo, which I believe most (if not all) Spanish speakers, would not pronounce the same way as they do the ll or the y.

    - As an English student of Spanish, you often don't know this at the beginning, and pronounce all the sounds the same:

    yo = io
    llorar - io-rar
    hielo - iel- o

    That was my concern with the original post, that the Newt was describing the ll from an English speaker's point of view, as though it was identical to an English y.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  11. logan_1974 Member

    Madrid, España
    Español, España
    I agree, but the difference between the spanish LL/Y sound and the british Y (`io´ in your example) sound is quite subtle in my opinion, and most spanish speakers will not really notice a mispronunciation.

    To be honest, reading out loud your examples, the only real problem I find is that if I pronounce `llorar´ as `io-rar´, the first r sounds more like the british R (weak) than the spanish R (quite stronger), what takes to a noticeable mispronunciation of that R, but not at the beginning of the word with LL sound itself.

    The spaniards we have a similar problem when learning English, because we are taught to pronounce using our own pronunciation of letters, specially vowels, instead of simply be told, and accept, since the begining, tha english and spanish vowels are different (the typical example is the difference between `eat´and `it´, usually both pronounced with our I sound).
  12. levmac

    levmac Senior Member

    No longer here.
    It's interesting. My personal feeling is that most Spaniards struggle to pronounce the English "y" correctly, because they also adopt this idea that it is more or less the same as the Spanish sounds.

    My concept of the Spanish "y" (very informed by the Iowa phonetics page) is that it is somewhere between the English y and the English j. Many people, when impersonating Spaniards or Mexicans will says things like "jor" instead of "your", because that's the sounds Spanish speakers often make.

    Iowa phonetics page: http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/ (Spanish ll = consonantes/modo/laterales) (American y = consonantes/manner/glide)
  13. logan_1974 Member

    Madrid, España
    Español, España
    Now you mention it, the English J sound is very, very close to the LL/Y Argentinian sound. I had never thought about it tough.

    Of course LL/Y (SP) and Y (EN) sounds are different, but that difference is not that big, depending of the word you are pronouncing. In "your" for example the difference is huge, probably because it´s such a short word, in other words it doesn´t seem so evident.

    The main problem is that for many years (at least in Spain), it has been really difficult to have access to samples of pronunciation, so you could only learn by listening to your teacher (who usually didn´t have a perfect pronunciation). Nowadays things are different. Since the DVD was released, and the dvb-t replaced the traditional TV, now we only have to push a button to hear people speaking in English...

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