an or a before an acronym starting with M/H

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lennny

Member
Cantonese
Hi all,

Should I use an or a before an acronym starting with M or H?

For example:

The band will be having a performance at an/a MTR (mass transit railway) station?

Where can I find an/a HSBC branch?

Thanks!
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    First of all, the items you give are not acronyms because they are not pronounceable.

    acronym /ˈækrənɪm/n
    • a pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of words; for example, UNESCO for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization

    Since you are dealing with initials, the rules are exactly the same as if you were choosing letters for a puzzle or something.

    You might review:

    A/an: H, letters (abbreviation)
    A/an: MA degree (abbreviation) [M]
    A/an: MA student (abbreviation) [M]



     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hi all,

    Should I use an or a before an acronym starting with M or H?

    For example:

    The band will be having a performance at an/a MTR (mass transit railway) station?

    Where can I find an/a HSBC branch?

    Thanks!
    There is more than one type of acronym. See the Wikipedia article here. Assuming you have in mind only the type of acronym called an "initialism," the choice of a or an depends upon the first sound pronounced when saying the initialism. If it is a consonant sound, use a. If it is a vowel sound, use an. Thus, it's "an MTR station" (m is pronounced "em") and "an HSBC branch" (h is pronounced "aitch").
     
    Last edited:

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I hope this is not off-topic, but I have sometimes heard English speakers pronounce "haitch SBC". Is this regional, is it used over the telephone for clarity, or is it due to ignorance? I stress that the speakers I heard have an otherwise completely normal Northern English pronunciation.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Thanks Loob, that explains it. :) There are very many people in Manchester (where I first heard this) with an Irish background.
     

    lennny

    Member
    Cantonese
    So, in a way, it could be 'a HSBC branch' or 'an HSBC branch' depending on whichever way the person writing it pronounces H?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    So, in a way, it could be 'a HSBC branch' or 'an HSBC branch' depending on whichever way the person writing it pronounces H?

    It's "unconventional" to pronounce "haitch", and if the person with this pronunciation realises this, they will probably write "an HSBC branch". Though I think in Britain local accents are not discouraged (as they might be in other countries where there is pressure for conformity in schools and in the media) most people are more careful about convention in writing than in speech. I can't say I have ever seen "a HSBC branch" in writing.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The pronunciation haitch is not uncommon where I am and if you do a search, you will indeed find 'a HSBC branch', but I will go with the general recommendation of writing 'an HSBC branch'.
     
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