Word Abuse: A OR AN?


We begin with the simplest words in the English language: “a” and “an”, which together form the indefinite article in our language.   In some ways they are TOO indefinite!  We gave serious thought to proscribing their use and ordering everyone only to use the definite article (the) in all cases, as it sounds much stronger and clearer, e.g. “The man on the train”.    In the end we narrowly voted to preserve “a” and “an”, but there are still problems to address!
When should one say “a” or “an”?    This ought to be simple to learn, but some foolish native speakers (let alone foreign persons) are still unaware of these rules!

We use
“a” in all cases, other than the below.
We use “an” when the noun begins with any of these letters:

A
, i.e., “an apple”
E, i.e., “an egg”
I, i.e., “an igloo”
O, “an ostrich”
U, “an uniform”*!*

Yes, a bit of a surprise for some!   But the fact is that only “an” can precede a word beginning with a vowel – including those few irregular “U”-misfits: “universe”, “unicorn”, “Ugandan”, etc – and those sentences using “a” will be marked sadly as incorrect!
Furthermore, we use “an” with:
H, as in “an house” [but one must pronounce both the “n” and “h” clearly and not say the Cockney “an ’ouse” which can cause injury!]
and
N (why not?), as in “an nun”.

As the example asks, why not?    Why should not we write “an nose” or “an nation”?   The pronunciation remains unaffected and it looks much, much better.

Adjectives
We have learned how simple
“an ___ apple” sounds, so why do not we describe the apple a little?  Remember the rule:    the article, “an”, must correspond to the initial letter of the noun.    So we say
an tasty apple”, or, “an rotten apple”.
Similarly, “an boiled egg”, “an poached ostrich” and, “an good newspaper”

BUT
– “a Autumn day”, “a evil killer” and “a interesting subject” must be said if your grammar want to stay on the straight-and-narrow!    “An Autumn day” is inadmissable because, heh, you wouldn’t say “an day in Autumn”, would you?    No, so get it right!

What is more, this logical A/AN distinction is a rule and must not be disobeyed!   Rules, as we know, are there to be obeyed, even the obscure or novel such as these are.     The “an” is resemblant of the French “un” and therefore helps us to remember our Norman heritage, among other things.

We shall give you an hand with these rules, but our guidelines can only help you to an certain extent!    After that, you'll be a lone.








 

A rather pointless illustration [pd]

 

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