1. Liza_00

    Liza_00 Senior Member

    I work at an agency...

    My question is... how do you know when to use a or an?
  2. kaleidoscope Member

    UK English
    If the next word begins with a vowel sound then you use "an", otherwise you use "a".

    A few examples:

    An agency
    An elephant
    An umbrella

    A car
    A dog
    A balloon
  3. DCPaco Senior Member

    Planet Earth
    Spanish of Mexico/ English of the USA
    Exactly as kaleidoscope has stated above.

    The one that varies based on preference is in cases like:


    an historian
    a historian

    both are acceptable and choice is personal
  4. JoseCarlosdel

    JoseCarlosdel Senior Member

    Sevilla (Spain)
    You use "an" with 'h' without sound:
    for example "an hour" .

    so it is because it sound better.
  5. kaleidoscope Member

    UK English
    I agree with DCPaco and JoseCarlosdel.

    You don't use "a" before "hour" because the "h" is "hour" is always silent and so the word begins with a vowel sound (rather than just a vowel).

    Also, acronyms that begin with the letter U should be preceeded by "a" and not "an". This is because "u" is pronounced as "yu", so it's a consonant sound rather than a vowel sound.

    Example: A UFO :tick: An UFO :cross:

    There are probably some more exceptions, but I can't think of any right now...
  6. Cosmopolita Senior Member

    Castellano, Argentina
    I agree with you kaleidoscope, it has to do with a vowel sound. And so, I learnt that not only acronyms but any word beginning with "u" and phonetics "/ju/" come with "a" instead of "an".
    a university :tick:
    an university :cross:

    a unique person :tick:
    an unique person :cross:

    a universe :tick:
    an universe :cross:

    Do you agree with me?
  7. elpoderoso

    elpoderoso Senior Member

    i agree, vowel sound rather than just vowel
  8. Nurja Senior Member

    Spanish- Spain
    An+ word that begins with a vowel sound: ex. an excuse

    A+word that begins with a consonant sound: ex. a knife, a union
  9. ale di angelo Member

    English, United States
    "a" when the next word does not start with a vowel("a bird") "an" when the next work does start with a vowel ("an elephant").

    vowel = "a, e, i, o, u"
  10. Poochini Member

    All the words starting with vowels go with AN, and the words starting with consonants with A

    For example

    AN apple

    A pencil
    A letter
  11. fool4jesus Senior Member

    Be careful about words that start with the letter "H", since sometimes it's pronounced and sometimes not. So we can talk about "AN honest man" but "A horrible evening." It's the sound that matters, not the letter. Hey - sea alentado - it could be worse. In French even if it's not pronounced you still sometimes treat it like it was. :)

    Actually, as I think about it, in older English sometimes even if the "H" was pronounced, they still used "AN" with it. But not today that I am aware of.
  12. kaleidoscope Member

    UK English
  13. JB

    JB Senior Member

    Santa Monica, CA, EEUU
    English (AE)
    La única correción que pongo es que lo que importa no es la letra en sí misma, sino el sonido.

    Si la palabra que sigue empieza con sonido de vocal, debe usar an. Tanto en español como en inglés, normalmente las palabras consisten en alternaciones de vocal, consonante, vocal, consonante, etc.

  14. Liza_00

    Liza_00 Senior Member

    ok... But I just wanna thank all of you guys!... Really :D
  15. ryryguy Senior Member

    English, United States of America
    Union phonetically sounds like "yoon-yun" so the u is making a consonant sound, thus the reason it is preceded by an "a". Be careful of this common pitfall especially when saying lettters in the alphabet.


    "an L is the first letter of love"
    "an M is the first letter of monkey"
    "a K is the first letter of kite"
  16. buscacorrecciones

    buscacorrecciones Senior Member


    I used to think that in front of a word (noun or adjective) that begins with a vowel we use the article AN, and in all the other cases an A.

    However, I have been told to use an A in this particular case. Can somebody explain this to me please?

    A unique garment.
    AN unique garment.

    Thank you
  17. Kibramoa

    Kibramoa Senior Member

    Heart of Texas, U.S.A.
    Spanish - MX
    It has to do with the vowel SOUND at the begining of the word:
    an apple
    an honorable man
    a hat
    a unique garment [ a yunik]

  18. Cynthia N

    Cynthia N Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    Español/ ARGENTINA
    It has to do with pronunciation, not spelling.

    If it sounds "iu", it should be A, for example University, unique...

    Hope it helps!
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2008
  19. Agró

    Agró Senior Member

    Alta Navarra
    A one-way street /wʌn/
    An NBA player /en biː eɪ/
  20. buscacorrecciones

    buscacorrecciones Senior Member

    aham, it makes sense now :)
    thank you very much
  21. miguel64086

    miguel64086 Senior Member

    Iowa, USA
    Chile, but living in USA (Spanish/English)
    so... is it "a historic event" or "an historic event" ?

    This article explain it very well...


    “An historic” is idiomatic when the words are run together and the stress falls on the second syllable of historic. The use of “an” becomes self-conscious and unidiomatic when the speaker pauses after the “an” and then puts the stress on the first syllable of historic.

    (really good website for us searching for grammatical perfection!)

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