a / an happy new year ?

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by Nanou, Nov 21, 2006.

  1. Nanou Senior Member

    FRANCE - French
    Est-ce que quelqu'un peut m'expliquer pourquoi on met :

    a happy new year et non pas an happy new year.

    Merci de votre aide.

  2. Franglais1969

    Franglais1969 Senior Member

    English English, français rouillé
    Because H is not a vowel.

    A horse
    A hedgehog
    A hairpin
  3. Susiee

    Susiee Member

    English/England (German/Sometimes Germany)
    J'suis un peu tard, mais le 'h' est aspirée, donc on doit dire: "a". C'est comme en français quand on dit: "le héros" mais "l'héroïne".
  4. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    C'est plus compliqué, l'anglais aussi a ses H aspirés: on dit an hour par exemple.
  5. Susiee

    Susiee Member

    English/England (German/Sometimes Germany)
    Grop: tu as raison- on dit "an hour", "an heir" (un héritier) etc. mais c'est car ils ne sont pas aspirés. Phonétiquement, 'hour' est our'. A d'autre part- "a hat" (un chapeau), "a hand" (une main), "happy" (heureux) etc. sont aspirés, donc phonétiquement "hat" est 'hat- on articule le 'h'.

    Donc en anglais, "hour" est comme "héroïne" en français, et "happy" est comme "héros".
  6. Coppers Senior Member

    South Yorkshire
    English - England
    Yes, the rule is:
    aspirated h (hot, house, etc.) => a
    non-aspirated h (hour, honour, etc.) => an


    If you watch the BBC you will often hear certain aspirated words take 'an' - 'an historic moment' etc. I'm not sure of the exact rule here, but there will no doubt be an explanation somewhere.


    In spoken local accents the h is often dropped anyway, meaning the non-aspirated h-word takes 'a', such as:

    an 'at
    an 'iccup
    an 'ug
    an 'appy New Year

  7. Susiee

    Susiee Member

    English/England (German/Sometimes Germany)
    I've never quite understood or agreed with that. In the case of 'historian', it's supposedly because the word is derived from the French 'historien', and the h there isn't pronounced of course.

    So following that logic, I'd understand if we'd kept the pronunciation the same as French; but as it stands, the 'h's which begin which begin the words 'history', 'historic' and 'historian' are quite clearly aspirated, therefore there is no need to say "an". "An" is only used to make it a little easier to pronounce- like in French where vowel to vowel clashes are eliminated by using l' and d' to avoid the very same thing.
  8. Coppers Senior Member

    South Yorkshire
    English - England
    Yes, it's an odd one, that, Susiee. I like the way the word 'historic' keeps a reference to its "history", though!
  9. Susiee

    Susiee Member

    English/England (German/Sometimes Germany)
    Indeed. :)
  10. DSnow818 New Member

    english usa
    "An" is used only when the "h" on the following noun is silent -- as in "an honor" or "an heiress".

    Since the "h" in happy is not silent, use "a happy new year".
  11. Namu New Member

    Canada English
    "An historic" does not sound right. (English is my first language) Often, if you pronounce the words out loud, you'll be able to hear what sounds right. This may be difficult to do if you are in the habit of not pronouncing "H", but it should be helpful.

    For example:
    "An hour" sounds better than "a hour".

    "A happy moment" sounds better than "an happy".

    "A historical moment" sounds better than "an historical moment".
  12. funnyhat Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    American English
    I find the pronunciation "an historic" to be very pretentious. I never use it.
  13. funnyhat Senior Member

    Michigan, USA
    American English
    The rule is that you use "an" before a vowel sound, not necessarily a vowel. An "h" in the initial position sometimes is silent, and a "u" in the initial position often is pronounced like a "y". ("Eu-" may have that sound as well.) So:

    An honor
    An owl
    An eagle
    An ugly person


    A unicorn
    A union
    A university
    A eucalyptus tree
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2008
  14. stanlavisbad New Member

    This thread is a bit old, but I'll answer it anyway.

    An goes before an aspirated "h" when the first syllable is not stressed, e.g. "an históric", "an homógenous" but not "an hístory".

    Before vowel sounds it is as funnyhat said. This includes acronyms, e.g. "an R&B group".
  15. Bopperkat Member

    It seems to me there is a confusion of terms here, originating from a comparison of two languages that really are different. In French the h is something you never pronounce, you don´t have that sound, so the case is different I think - in French this letter (not a sound, really?) has a bearing on liaison, you use it or you don´t. I don´t think the French difference between the muet or aspiré h can be compared with the two alternatives a/an history, rather it will only confuse matters to do so. In any case, as an answer to the original question, an history is either archaic, or very formal, or something that can be used in certain dialects, and there is absolutely no reason to use it, unless you really know what you are doing.
  16. sudeep13582 New Member

    Howrah, India
    India - Bengali, Hindi, English
    An Honest thread about h... :)
    anyway a blessed and happy new year to you all
  17. broglet

    broglet Senior Member

    English - England
    I totally agree. It does make sense, however, if you are a cockney who drops his aitches: 'I went on an 'istoric 'oliday in 'olland'. You might then wish someone an 'appy new year. And a French speaker who finds aitches difficult to pronounce would sound less awkward if he said 'I wish you an 'appy New Year' than 'I wish you a 'appy New Year'.

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