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When To Use An a or An an In The English Language

Updated on June 19, 2016

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Proper Usage Of a and an

In grammar school I remember as kids we used to sound the word English as "Engalish" which was improper from the beginning.

The English language is among the top three languages used all over the world. It is perhaps, the number one language. In this segment I will talk about proper usage of words: a and an.


The Letter A and Word

Of course, A or a is the first letter of the English alphabet. It also happens to be a one-letter word as well. Used as a one letter word it usually refers to one object or subject such as a girl. A is an adjective that describes only one amount of the object. Notice that an object just happens to follow that.


Remember The Vowels

Remember the vowels, vowel sounds and consonants we learned in grammar school? http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vowel

How many vowels were there? a e i o u and in my opinion sometimes h and y. In certain sentences the h is silent and precedes the o such as in hour or honor. Here is another silent h that is used often, "I would prefer an honest person to collect the rents for me." I’m not sure of why the y was tagged as a vowel but anyway, there are definitely five vowels. They basically have more than one sound like the first vowel a has the long sound in the word apron. It has a short sound in words like art or apple. In a sentence it should read,"I had an apple for a snack." The proper usage between the a and the an is to say an apple because a vowel followed the singular reference to the apple. Similar uses are, an airplane, an earmuff, an extra pad, an interview, an octopus, an octave, an underground sprinkler, an upstairs. All those words that followed the word "an" started with a short vowel from a to u and maybe y. Coincidentally when these adjectives are used properly, they seem to make the speech feel comfortable and easy. If you are a writer of any kind, your writing skills will sharpen as you understand and apply these important adjectives

The Improper Use Of A

Unfortunately, I notice that people have a tendency to use the an improperly in front of a vowel. Improper usage of the a is to say, an apple, a eating area, an effort, a energetic person, an inch, a inner tube, a ovary, an opened door, an upper valve, a underwear or an undergarment.

Proper Usage In Speech And Sentences For An or an

The room had an area of one hundred square feet. In the mornings we usually see an airplane fly over the river. I saw an elderly man come out of the house. I heard an eerie noise in the dark room. I saw the man kiss her after an hour of talking. I considered the hub compliment an honor to receive. That chair was an inch away from the wall. We dangled from an interior chain above the stairs. There was still an opening under the nose of the lady so he kissed her again. I have an optimistic feeling about the way the economy is looking. Can we reach an understanding about our roles in this house? My email has an underscore between my first and last name.

Consonants

All the other alphabets of the English language are called consonants. Vowels and consonants make up the entire English language alphabet. A consonant usually has one sound except for the letter, h. It is sometimes silent but not considered a vowel.

A Brief Recap

The word A or a is usually used when it precedes a word that starts with a consonant except for the letter, h. The word An or an is only to be used when it precedes a word that starts with a vowel. In a future hub we will get into the vowel sounds.

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    • word55 profile image
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      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Glad to be of help! oldies :-)

    • oldiesmusic profile image

      oldiesmusic 2 years ago from United States

      Thanks for your answer, will keep that in mind. This is really helpful. :)

    • word55 profile image
      Author

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi oldies and thanks for the challenging question. You are correct and neither is he wrong. I would say, "an R&B" as well. The point of speech usage is for it to sound comfortable. I would also say, "a Rhythm and Blues song." There are exceptions to certain rules. It is his option to use "a R&B." In using either an "a or an an" in this case, is acceptable.

    • oldiesmusic profile image

      oldiesmusic 2 years ago from United States

      I use "an" for phrases in my hubs and other articles such as "an R&B singer-songwriter." One time, someone said that is wrong as "R&B" starts with a consonant, though it's pronounced with a vowel "ar." Is he wrong or am I wrong? Anyway, good article about "a" and "an." :)

    • word55 profile image
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      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      I thank you for the compliment Ms Raine, It would have been an honor and privilege to be an English teacher. :-)

    • Raine Law Yuen profile image

      Raine Law Yuen 2 years ago from Cape Town

      thanks words55. I think you missed your calling. You should be an English teacher.

    • word55 profile image
      Author

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi teaches, you have accomplished so much since you were a child. If we practice these basic English principles in our daily speech then they won't get away from us. We must preserve the proper speech of the English language. Thanks for stooping by :-)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I remember my first lesson using a and an and how fun it was to apply in writing. Yes, I was a strange child! Thanks for the valuable refresher.

    • word55 profile image
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      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you Ms Dana, I'm glad you saw the difference it made when you started speaking slowly so the pronunciation is fluent and clearly understood. You're a champion. Keep stopping by :-)

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      I noticed that when people learn English as a second language they speak it slow and pronounce the words clearly. Slang has gotten out of hand. I remember when I was a child I always loved to read but wasn't the best speller. Then I found out it was because I wasn't pronouncing my words correctly. Once I started speaking slower and pronouncing my words my spelling improved.

    • word55 profile image
      Author

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Yes MsDora, If we take the time to speak slowly then our speech will be spoken more fluently and properly. Yes, this article was just a little reminder of what we were taught in elementary school. We must get back to the basics. Slang speech has gotten out of hand. Glad to be communicating with you :-)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for the reminder. This information is valuable both for speakers and writers.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You certainly made that clear to all.A well-informed and learning lesson for us all.

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