Grammar Tips: Choosing ‘a’ or ‘an’

by Sheila J Tofflemire on Thursday, December 17, 2009, 10:25 am

in Grammar Tips

Many people think that choosing to use the indefinite article a or an depends on whether the word that follows starts with a consonant or a vowel. However, many people are wrong.

It’s not spelling that matters. What counts is the sound of the word that follows. Use a when followed by a consonant sound, including sounded h, long u, and o that sounds like a w (as in one). For example: a house, a uniform, a one-week event.

Use an when followed by a vowel sound, including the silent h and some acronyms or abbreviations. For example: an honest person, an SAT.

So to make it easy on yourself, just listen carefully to the sound that’s made by the word that follows. Following is a quick quiz to give you some practice.

‘A’ or ‘An’ Quiz:

  1. This sale price is a/an one-time offer.
  2. I can pick you up in a/an hour from now.
  3. That is a/an horrible thing to say about your mother.
  4. The event has been moved to a/an outdoor venue.
  5. Shortly after the storm hit, the ship sent out a/an SOS.
  6. The doctor told me I will require a/an x-ray very soon.
  7. The workers are talking about forming a/an union and going on strike.
  8. He has a/an younger brother and a/an older sister.
  9. They have a/an ulterior motive for offering assistance.
  10. Climategate makes intelligent people wonder if there is a/an honest promoter of AGW theory.

Answers: click here

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