a/an hectic schedule?

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by gansvv, Aug 16, 2007.

  1. gansvv New Member

    India, Tamil
    What is the grammatically correct way to say: "..., you would pretty much have a hectic schedule."

    Is there: "a" or "an" before the hectic. I rmbr the rules regarding the "an" before "university" etc.. but could someone explain the right usage here.

    Thanks, appreciate it!
  2. VivaReggaeton88

    VivaReggaeton88 Senior Member

    Santa Ana, Costa Rica / New York, NY
    US/EEUU; English/Inglés
    a hectic schedule

    you use 'an' when the next word begins with a vowel.
  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    "A hectic." The "h" is pronounced.
  4. Dawei Senior Member

    English (USA)
    ...although sometimes you do see things like "an historic".

    By the way, this forum is for Spanish-English...you will get better responses with English questions by posting in the "English only" subject.
  5. talshanir Senior Member

    San Jose, California
    Argentina Spanish
    There is more to it than only when preceding a vowel.

    and an function as the indefinite forms of the grammatical article in the English language and can also represent the number one. An is the older form (related to one, cognate to German ein etc), now used before words starting with a vowel sound (or a syllabic consonant), regardless of whether the word begins with a vowel letter. Examples: a light-water reactor; an LWR; a sanitary sewer overflow; an SSO; a HEPA filter (because HEPA is pronounced as a word rather than as letters); a hypothesis; an hour; a unicorn.

    The link is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_and_an

    Good Luck!
  6. mhp Senior Member

    American English
    It is “a” before “university” because it stats with the “u” sound—as in “you”.
    When the initial “u” has a sound similar to “unjust” then “an” is used.

    "an historic" or "a historic"
    Dependents on how the speaker pronounces the "h". If you pronounce it like historic then it is "a historic"
  7. gansvv New Member

    India, Tamil
    thanks folks, for the replies!
    I'll also rmbr to post such queries in the "English only" section the next time.
  8. michimz

    michimz Senior Member

    US English
    Just a little reminder to write out the whole word. Not everybody will understand what that stands for. Refer to the rules for any doubts and welcome to this wonderful forum!!

  9. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I found that Wikipedia paragraph needlessly complicated. An is used before vowel sounds and a is used elsewhere. Period.
  10. talshanir Senior Member

    San Jose, California
    Argentina Spanish
    But "h" is not a vowel and you use "an" sometimes, or would you say "a hour", "a heir"?
  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Vowel sound. Before a vowel sound. The first sound in "hour" is the vowel in "-our", since the "h" is silent.
  12. michimz

    michimz Senior Member

    US English
    English is never consistent and therefore it is always hard to give an explanation that will always work, but it is a general rule that should almost always lead you to the solution. However, it is really is an issue of pronunciation that will be memorized over time.

  13. Ms Missy Senior Member

    U.S. Virgin Islands
    USA English
    I agree with Michimz's suggestion that it's an issue of pronunciation (when the 'h' is silent. Another example of this would be, "It's an honor to receive this prestigious award for being such an honest businessman!"
  14. Kangy Senior Member

    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Argentina [Spanish]
    Yup, the important thing here is vowel sound, not vowel letter.
  15. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    It's also true that some some words have one pronounciation when spoken slowly and another when spoken fast. Is it just my impression, or would many people pronounce "hectic" without the "h" when speaking quickly?
    For example, "I've got an 'ectic schedule today".
  16. mhp Senior Member

    American English
    The 'h' in hectic is so strong that I'd never say "an 'ectic schedule", no matter how fast I speak. But again, I never say "an 'otel" even though the 'h' in hotel sounds a lot softer to me.
  17. roanheads Senior Member

    Scotland, english
    I see " an hotel " used ocasionally in our press.
  18. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  19. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    I myself still say an hotel, in which I do not pronounce the aitch, and the famous historian (who would no doubt have referred to himself as an historian) A.J.P. Taylor used to talk on the BBC of "an European" and there must be some people still left who do the same. Whether an aitch should be pronounced or not has varied over many years, and I remember hearing it pronounced in Cockney in the word Honorable and used with the article a, as was done in high society during the century before last, when ain't was also highly respectable.
  20. Ms Missy Senior Member

    U.S. Virgin Islands
    USA English
    hmmm... we might even have to re-think even that statement and just sum it all up as the 'inconsistencies' of the English language. For example, here in the Caribbean, there are some native English speakers who DROP the 'h' sound on words, and add it to others. ('Aiti' instead of 'Haiti' and 'e' instead of 'he.' But on the other hand, they say 'honor' with a strong emphasis on the 'h' sound instead of the silent 'h' as in 'onor').

    And even though there's definitely an 'h' sound in 'history' ... why do we speak of an historical event???

    Just rhetorical! ;)
  21. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Because the "h" in "historical" may or may not be pronounced. Take a look at the other thread. ;)
  22. Ms Missy Senior Member

    U.S. Virgin Islands
    USA English
    So is it 'herb' or 'erb'??? :eek: (Even Martha Stewart wasn't sure about that one)!
  23. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    I believe that the H in herb has been discussed many times on these fora, but I can't find a thread of which it was the specific topic. I remember it was said that most Americans pronounce it without the H whereas in BE the H is always pronounced, except in dialects like Cockney where all the H's are dropped and sometimes put in where they don't belong (an 'erb in Cockney is a young ruffian but it is derived from the name Herbert and has nothing to do with plants).
  24. Consolaceon

    Consolaceon Member

    Los Angeles
    USA, English
    a/an --- Regarding those pesky 'h's - what are called silent or pronounced 'h's are in fact aspirated ('help') or unaspirated ('hour', sounds like 'our'; 'heir', sounds like 'air'). This is inherited from the French (thanks to the Norman invasion and conquest of England in 1066). It's basically the same as when French uses the elision with 'le' or 'la' or not. For example, le havre, but l'hotel; la housse, but l'humanite (sorry, can't put in the necessary ^ and ').

    This is why, in British Isle English, apart from the tendency in some areas to drop initial 'h's ('Oo the 'ell do you think you are?), there is even in newspapers some inconsistency over whether to use 'a' or 'an' with hotel - because the French influence/etymology suggests it's a silent, or unaspirated 'h'. In the US, hotel is always pronounced with an aspirated 'h'. It is always 'a hotel.' Whereas in the UK you'll hear both. (A reverse example: in the States they say 'herbs' as unaspirated - erbs; in the UK they say 'herbs' with a pronounced, aspirated 'h'. So an herb in the US, a herb in the UK!)

    As inconsistent as English is (thanks to its combination of Saxon/Germanic root words, with French/Latin root words), it is consistent about when to use 'a' and 'an'. You can only figure it out if you know the pronunciation of the word in question.

    If it sounds like a vowel, even if it's a silent consonant, then use 'an' (an apple, an hour, an outage - even in rare cases of 'y' when it is pronounced as a vowel - an yperite, which is pronounced 'ee-peh-rite (a chemical, mustard gas actually, taken from the Belgian town of Ypres, where it was first used in World War 1).

    If it sounds like a consonant, use 'a' (a letter, a hit, a yell, a unit, a university, a unit, a use - because here 'u' is pronounced with the consonant sound of a 'y').

    As for acronyms, it depends on how they tend to get pronounced - like a single word (UNESCO), or as a series of letters (ADA, pronounced A-D-A [assistant district attorney]). Since UNESCO sounds like it starts with a 'y' (pronounced: yu-nes-ko), it takes 'a' - A UNESCO employee. Whereas ADA is pronounced as three letters, so it takes 'an' - An ADA will handle the case.

    Hope this helps!
  25. HistofEng Senior Member

    New York
    USA Eng, Haitian-Creole
    Believe it or not, in very colloquial speech, some people sometimes say "a" in front of vowel sounds.

    You may sometimes hear things like (albeit rarely):

    It's a eagle.
    I gotta go work in a office.

    I wouldn't advise non-native speakers ever using this construction, just don't be surprised if you hear it from time to time.
  26. kuchamaa

    kuchamaa Senior Member

    San Diego, California
    USA English
    I'm a little late to help the original poster, but people still read these threads for reference.

    I think some people say "An historic event" because it sounds more elegant. Is it wrong? I think so but I'm not 100% sure. I've heard college professors say "an historic event." College professors should know better. Shouldn't they?

    I think it's like saying "for you and I." People sometimes use the nominative case because they think it sounds more elegant than objective case. In the case of "for you and I," nominative case is incorrect; it should be "for you and me." But I hear it all the time from people who should know better. They're trying to sound educated, but displaying their ignorance of rules of grammar.
  27. Wandering JJ

    Wandering JJ Senior Member

    British English
    When a word starts with a pronounced 'h' and the stress is on the first syllable, then we always use 'a'.
    When a word starts with a pronounced 'h' and the stress does not fall on the first syllable, it is acceptable to use 'an' - not so common these days.
    That explains why some of us say 'a hístory' but 'an histórical event'.
  28. AquisM Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    To me it's more to do with a personal preference. My jaws are more accustomed to dropping the h and use an 'istoric event. A historic event = pain for my jaws.\

    Edit: Wandering JJ, perhaps that's why the rule exists.
  29. kuchamaa

    kuchamaa Senior Member

    San Diego, California
    USA English
    Well, thanks Wandering J! Cleared that up for me after all these years!

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