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Indefinite Articles “A” and “An” – Grammar Errors

Updated on September 23, 2012

My Video of Mortimer and Horton

Mortimer and Horton are going on a journey to find out about "a" and "an."
Mortimer and Horton are going on a journey to find out about "a" and "an." | Source

"A" and "An"

If you have ever had a problem as to when you use a or an before a noun, have no fear! Lots of people have wondered the same thing. Mortimer and his zany friend Horton are two guys who are about to embark on a quest just to find the answers to this question. Read on to find out about their unusual journey.

“Mortimer, how to we find out about the uses of a and an?”

“I’m not sure, Horton. But you gave me a great idea! I think this is a perfect time for a little road trip!”

“You mean, we’ll drive all over the countryside and ask people when to use a and an?”

“Yes, I think so, Horton. Go get your plaid jacket and meet me at the car. This will be an confusing journey.”

“Don’t you mean a confusing journey?”

“I’m confused, Horton.”

“Me, too. We’d better go.”

© C. Calhoun 2012. All rights reserved.

Mortimer has an old car.
Mortimer has an old car. | Source

What Is an Indefinite Article?

An indefinite article is used before a non-specific noun: I’m looking for a house. It could be any house. But, when you get more specific, you’ll want to use the definite article the: I’m looking for the red house.

Mortimer and Horton Begin Their Journey

As they piled their things into Mortimer’s old car, Horton looked over at him. “Would you say this is an old car or an old car?

“It’s an old car all right,” Mortimer replied.

“But…why wouldn’t you say a old car, Mortimer?”

“Because it sounds weird.” He was also perfectly aware that you are not supposed to start a sentence with because, but he didn’t care. He was too excited about their upcoming journey. “Plus, I sound like I have the hiccups if I say a old car.”

They drove off. They drove three hours north until they came to a town called Utopia. When they drove into town, they were surprised by people dancing and singing in the streets – everywhere.

Horton stopped a man who was twirling counter-clockwise. “Excuse me, sir, but in this happy town, everyone’s dancing. Would you describe this as a utopian feeling or an utopian feeling?”

The man smiled and thought for a moment. “It is a utopian feeling, Sir. Everybody knows that you use a before a word that starts with the sound of a consonant. Won’t you dance with us?”

“Oh, no, no,” Horton quickly replied, “I’m afraid I have two left feet!” At that, the man smiled again, winked, and then went off twirling toward the sound of music.

Horton looked at Mortimer. “But, I thought that before a consonant, you ALWAYS were supposed to use the word a. Then, before a vowel, you used the word an.”

“Apparently, Horton, sounds play a role here. Let’s journey on and ask some more people.”

When Mortimer and Horton returned to the car, he noticed that his odometer read 973,011 miles. “Well, Horton, it looks like I need an oil change pretty soon.”

“There! You said it again! You used the word an and not a.”

“Yes, yes I did. It just sounds right. Hmm, maybe that’s the reason! It sounds right!”

“I don’t know, Mortimer. Just because it sounds right, doesn’t mean it is right.”

“Well, we’ll just have to keep asking then, Horton.”

Herb, By Any Other Name

Mortimer’s father was named Herb. Mortimer also had a younger brother named Herb. They all became handymen. Often, when clients would confuse Mortimer and the two Herbs, they would just ask for a Herb – any Herb – when they couldn’t figure out which one was whom.

Source

Do You Feel Like You Have A Good Grasp of "A" and "An"?

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Mortimer Writes a Eulogy

Just as they were about to leave, a man wearing a bright yellow shirt and carnation pink pants opened the back door of the car and got in. He sat with a big grin on his face and held a small suitcase in his arms.

“Did someone say road trip?” he asked. Mortimer and Horton just looked at each other. “Sure,” they both replied at the same time. Their adventure was getting even more interesting.

“But, we’re on an unusual journey,” Horton said.

“I myself am unusual,” the man said. “The name is Wiley.”

“Well, Wiley, we are trying to find out when to use the indefinite articles a and an. It’s proving to be very interesting.”

“Well, what have you found so far?” Wiley asked.

“Not much,” replied Mortimer. “Just that you use a before a word that starts with a consonant sound.”

“Well, you’re off to a good start,” Wiley replied. His freakish smile was getting bigger. “You know about and then, don’t you?”

Mortimer and Horton shook their heads.

“You use an before a word that starts with a vowel sound.”

Just then, Wiley sat up in his seat. He felt something peculiar. He pulled a dead frog from out of the folds in the seat.

“Oh, that was Chauncey,” Mortimer said, shaking his head. “He wasn’t doing so well this morning. I guess it was his time.”

Wiley didn’t stop smiling. “Well, folks, I think it’s time for a eulogy.”

“I have two questions,” Horton said. “First, are you talking about a eulogy for a frog?”

“Yes, doesn’t everyone give their frog a eulogy when it dies?” Wiley’s smile never faded. Maybe his face was permanently fixed that way.

Horton and Mortimer just looked at each other.

“Yes, well, now for my second question. Why did you say a eulogy and not a eulogy? I mean there are two vowels at the beginning of the word eulogy.”

Wiley’s eyes bobbed back and forth between Mortimer and Horton. “You really don’t know?” His smile got a little flatter. “Well, I’ll tell you. In the town of Utopia, everyone knows this stuff. But, since you’re not from around here….When you say the word eulogy, you make a y sound. ‘Yew-low-gee.’ Because that’s a consonant sound, you put use a before the word and not an.”

“Oh,” Horton said. “So if I want to talk about unicorns and I see one, I’d say ‘Look! A unicorn’.”

“You got it,” Wiley smiled. “Now, tell me something interesting about your frog.”

“He was old and green,” Mortimer mused. “He hopped around a lot.”

“Did he do anything?” Wiley prodded.

“He was a hero…to me,” Mortimer replied.

A list of words that sometimes can trip people up when determining whether to use "a" or "an."
A list of words that sometimes can trip people up when determining whether to use "a" or "an." | Source

Mortimer and Horton Discover Mrs. Twyla's Herb Garden

“Well, you used the a correctly. You also made a beautiful tribute to Chauncey. Let’s walk over to that garden where Mrs. Twyla is singing and picking flowers.”

Mortimer and Horton followed Wiley.

“Oh, look! A herb garden!”

“Um, no,” Wiley said. Mrs. Twyla looked up for a moment and stopped singing. “Maybe in the United Kingdom they pronounce the h at the beginning of that word, but on the other side of the pond, we don’t. It’s not a herb garden but, in fact, an herb garden.

“Oh, I see!” Horton exclaimed. “If you don’t pronounce the h, you have a vowel sound, so you need an before herb. That makes perfect sense!”

Mrs. Twyla came over to introduce herself. “Hello! I’m Mrs. Twyla. It’s an honor to meet you. I have an MFA in Smurfology. I like to study the smurfs that grow near my garden.”

“Is that an MFA you say? Not a MFA?” Mortimer asked.

“Mrs. Twyla,” Wiley smiled, “You’ll have to forgive my friends. They are not from Utopia.” He looked over at Mortimer and Horton. “Where did you say you’re from?”

“We’re from a town called Truth and Consequential.” Mortimer beamed. Wiley and Mrs. Twyla gasped.

“No wonder you’re a bit confused. In Utopia, it’s a grammar haven,” Mrs. Twyla remarked. “You also say an MFA because when you use a letter by itself, if it has a vowel sound, you use the word an with it.”

“Oh,” Mortimer and Horton said, with their eyebrows raised.

“Well, I think I’ve got it, Mrs. Twyla!” Horton added. “It’s been an honor meeting you and Wiley here. I am an uninvited guest in your garden, so I will return back home with Mortimer. It’s been an overly joyous encounter with the people of Utopia.”

Mortimer and Horton shook hands with Wiley and Mrs. Twyla. “This will be an unforgettable event,” they both replied.

Indeed, this would go down as a momentous event in history. A historian would one day read about Mortimer and Horton’s adventures. For now, they learned valuable lessons about the indefinite articles a and an.

Need To Brush Up on Some Grammar?

When to Use "I" or "Me" - Understand how to use the pronouns "I" and "me" in a sentence. Which is correct: "Mark went to the store with Mary and I," or "Mark went to the store with Mary and me." Find out in this hub!

Which or That: Grammar Errors - Mrs. Twitches and her britches are legendary. Learn how she deals with her eye twitches when she hears grammar errors.

The Semicolon: Snooty and Sassy - Miss Semicolon is snooty, sassy and almost regal in her sentence structures. Learn what makes her "tick".

Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Is That Alien a He, She or an It? - If you're a Star Trek fan, take a look at this hub and find out how you would address an alien when you meet one.

The Cantankerous Comma - Uses and Rules - When and where do you use a comma? It gets confusing. Work through that confusion and have a laugh at The Cantankerous Comma's expense. Find out about "Comma Knowledge," too.

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Phil - I'm glad you're enjoying these grammar hubs. :D I get inspiration to do a "crazy" hub once in a while, and for some reason, they end up being "grammar" hubs. Go figure. ;) Cheers!

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Yet another great Grammar hub, I really enjoyed reading this one. Good job voted up and awesome.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      sandra - aw, thank you. :) I figure if the kids and adults loved the way I taught this stuff in Spanish classes, then perhaps the internet venue would work with my zany ways. Haha. So, here's to zany, crazy grammar hubs. :)

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 5 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      You are making such a wonderful contribution to all writers who sometimes need to brush up on the grammar rules they ignored in school -- because, then, writing wasn't important to them. Nice to have such an informal, humorous way to brush up. Thanks for SHARING. Sandra Busby

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      wolfshadow - I am definitely in the mindset that grammar can actually be really fun if you just get a little wacky. Hehe. Thanks for coming by. :) Cheers!

    • wolfshadow profile image

      wolfshadow 5 years ago

      Wow, this is awesome. You're much better at explaining this than my old English teacher. Grammar is always a bit easier to take with a side of humor. Thanks.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Helloooo Sunshine!! Aw, hehe, I have fun with these grammar hubs. I will always cheer you on, with patience and humor by my side. :D Hehe. (HUGS)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I agree with maggs. I wish I had a teacher like you when I was a youngen. Patience, sense of humor and a cheerful cheerleader! What a package!! I don't think I have any issues with a or an, but if I do be sure and tell me teach!:))

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Aw, Ruchira (HUGS) to you! Thank you for the compliments and I'm really glad you liked the video. Hehe. Mortimer and Horton are two unusual people. :D Hehe. I hope your kids like it. ;)

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      Cyndi...you rock girl. The video was awesome n so were the drawings. Your hubs r kid friendly n make sure my kid reads it too.

      Voted up, my friend.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      maggs224 - aw, thank you for your kind words and feedback. :) I always had a penchant for grammar, but like you, I learned A LOT about grammar when I took my Spanish grammar classes in college. I love the fact that I can help shed some light on the intricacies of grammar. I'm so glad you found this so fun. :) That's exactly what I'm trying to do: grammar doesn't have to be boring. Hehe.

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

      I loved this hub I just wish that I had a teacher like you when I was a youngster it would have certainly made a big difference to me.

      I use to read a lot when I was a child and so I was pretty good at knowing when things sounded right but somehow the grammar side of the language just passed me by.

      I have learned more about the English language trying to learn Spanish than I ever learned at school all those years ago.

      Even 50 years after leaving school Hubs like yours are still managing to shed some light on the 'why' side of things so thank you very much :D

      It is a gift to be able to make things so much fun and still impart knowledge that sticks, and take it from some one who has just been enlightened you possess that wonderful gift.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      billy - so great to see you, friend. I love all the writing I do, but these grammar hubs are fun because of the way I can make zany stories happen. :D The letter "M" actually begins with a vowel sound - so you would use an "an" - it's all about ease of pronunciation. :) Thanks for stopping by. Always great to see you. (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hehe, I'm glad you enjoyed this, Lisa. Hehe, Mortimer and Horton - I have a feeling - are going to have some good times! Thank you for your kind words and comments. (HUGS)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Marcy - oh, wise one, I just love it when I get feedback from you. Your writing is superb, so it makes my day when you stop by and comment. :D Thank you so much and I'm so glad you liked this. :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are just too damn funny! This series is one of the best on HubPages and I'm not just saying that because we are friends. Loved the video, loved the story! I just ran across a tricky word the other day....A MP3 Player...what say you oh wise one?

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      Hhahhahahahahahah....I couldn't get past the video.. had to replay it several times.. so dang cute cute cute! I want a Mortimer of my own!..lol Very clever way of teaching CC. Voted way up! Lisa

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      As always, you are the resident expert on all things grammar-related! I love your hubs, and I refer other to them whenever I get questions about usage. Thanks for yet another very valuable hub!

      Voted up and up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Deborah - thanks so much. Yes, the video I did myself. It cost me my sanity - a little bit, anyway - but worth it, I think. :) I had a little trouble with the upload of it, so I couldn't do a "video" hub. But, I really don't think Mortimer and Horton really care. ;) Thanks for stopping by.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      You did the video yourself? It is great and the hub itself is fantastic too.. all of it if so good.. wow

      voted up

      debbie

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Haha, Vicki. You both are so supportive. I just look forward to your comments. Y'all are just so freakin' awesome. ;)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Vicki - haha, I have no idea where in the world I get the ideas for these stories. They sort of "come to me" as I write. Hehe. But, thank you for noticing my drawings, too. I think, other than the writing, that is my favorite part about doing hubs. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      I kept thinking about "Horton Hears a Who" when I was writing this, but the name went so well with "Mortimer" - I was looking for stodgy names that would actually look cool on a couple of young, crazy guys. Haha. Anyway, Tammy, thanks so much for stopping by. (HUGS)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Oh, I see that tammyswallow beat me to the comment section! Oh, well, that's okay. She knows you're awesome, too!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Many votes, including up, my dear CC! You do tell great stories to demonstrate grammar--way to go! I think this hub will help readers understand if they don't have a grasp. And I LOVE your video. So adorable! I like your drawings, too! I have noticed you're good at inserting original drawings. That is cool, sis! You are so talented! Seriously! Excellent hub! I think I'm the first to comment. Sharing with others, too!

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I love Horton Hears An Hoo! Just kidding. Very useful tips and a great refresher course for those of us who are lazy with the language. Great job!!