A/an: huge (and other words beginning with h)

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As a native - and very competent; I have an A* English language GCSE - English speaker, I am a little ashamed to be asking this question.

I've always though that the general rule for using "a/an" is to use "a" before a word beginning with a consonant, and "an" before a word beginning with a vowel sound (including a silent h).

However, I have also seen things like "an huge" written in publications, and I have always thought that it doesn't flow well and sounds odd, so I thought I should ask here. Am I right to think that "an huge" is wrong?

I am also a little unsure about "an historic", because I would never pronounce "historic" with a silent "h" on its own, yet I feel a natural compulsion to say "an historic".

Any help much appreciated :)
  • MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    I think "an" can be used when the first syllable of the next word is not stressed...

    An hotel, historic, hysterical etc (they tend to get pronounced otel, istoric, ysterical).

    But not "an history book", "an hysterectomy", "an holiday" etc where the "h" syllable is stressed.


    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I think it's the kind of rule that, if you were to try to apply it, would always be superseded by local dialects/accents.
    Personally, I would never use 'an' with 'historic, 'hotel' or 'herb' but would always use it with 'honour' or 'hour', whereas others no doubt would in all these cases.


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I couldn't bring myself to say "an huge".
    I suppose it is just possible that in some accents the h of huge is unaspirated (I think that's the term) so that a speaker of such an accent might say an 'uge ... ...
    No, I can't convince myself of that at all.

    There has been a lot of discussion about a(n) historic. Some say "an historic", some don't.
    My choice of a or an before historic depends on one of two things.
    If I am writing for me, how does it sound to me?
    If I am writing for someone else, what is their house style.

    I think I'd go for an historic, given a free choice. Some people do indeed consider this an affectation, but I'm used to that and I don't intend changing now:)
    That's a post (mine) from this thread:
    A or an, historic, historian, historical, hotel, humanitarian, Hawaiian, honour, herb, hypothesis ...

    It is, I regret to say, an huge thread :p
    ... but in there you will find all kinds of opinions and explanations which should at least make you feel rather less ashamed.

    <Moderator note: Please let's not construct yet another huge thread. If your comment is genuinely new it is welcome, but to know it is genuinely new you must read all the way through the linked thread. To remove temptation, this thread is closed.
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