the Indefinite Article and Sound

Use of the indefinite article is not as simple as putting a before nouns that begin with consonants and an before those that begin with vowels, there are indefinite article exceptions that one must be aware of.

It is important to remember that sound determines what article is used, not the letter that precedes it.

a university or an university?

a university or an university?

Use the indefinite article a with words that begin with the letter u which have same sound as the word you. The word you has a y sound.

a unicycle, a uniform, a unicorn, a university
an uncle, an umpire, an ultimatum, an upstart

Exercise 3: Read the words aloud. Choose a or an.

Exercise 4: Correct or incorrect?

a-european-or-an-european-image

a European or an European?

Use the indefinite article a with words that begin with the letters eu which have same sound as the word you. The word you has a y sound.

a European, a euro, a eulogy, a eucalyptus tree
an uncle, an umpire, an ultimatum, an upstart

Exercise 5: Read the words aloud. Choose a or an.

Exercise 6: Correct or incorrect?

a-one-way-street-or-an-one-way-street-image

a one or an one?

Use the indefinite article a with words that begin with the word one which has same sound as the w in the word won.

a one-hit wonder, a one-time offer, a one-way street
an ocean, an ounce, an office, an ostrich

Exercise 7: Read the following aloud. Choose a or an

Exercise 8: Correct or incorrect? aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

 

a-hour-or-an-hour-image

a hour or an hour?

Use the indefinite article an with words that begin with a silent h. The silent h has a vowel sound.

an hour, a/an herb*, an honest man, an heir
a hospital, a horse, a house, a hen

*In some dialects of the United Kingdom, the h in some words is silent, whereas in North America it is pronounced. As such, an is used by the former and a by the latter.

Exercise 9: Read the following words aloud. Choose a or an