You are not signed in (Login or Join Free)   |   Help
Sploofus Trivia
Trivia GamesCommunityLeaderboardsTournaments
NOTICE: Sploofus is closing May 31st.    Click here for more details

You are here:  Home  >>  Chat Forums  >>  The Salty Dog  >>  View Chat Message

View Chat Message

Pages:  1    

Eesusbejesus  (Level: 75.0 - Posts: 3641)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 9:07 AM


Back in elementary school, we learned that when a word starts with a consonant sound, you use the letter "A" in front of it. (A post in the chats). Even if its a vowel but it sounds like a consonant, we use A. (A unicorn). We use "An" for words that either start with a vowel or sound like they are starting with a vowel (An elephant or an xray).

So can someone please explain to me why I repeatedly hear on tv people saying "An historic event?" I hear this all the time and it seems to follow neither one of those rules. Wouldn't it be more proper to say "A historic event?"

I appreciate your responses - this is bugged me for quite a while.

Suzer22  (Level: 166.3 - Posts: 1982)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 9:14 AM

I think it's left over from the British heritage of English, where the 'h' is more aspirated and therefore comes out like a vowel; more like "An 'istoric day". Whatever part of the US you come from probably hits the 'h' harder without the expulsion of breath, making the choice of "an" sound wrong to you.

Garrybl  (Level: 293.8 - Posts: 6801)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 9:40 AM

Actually Americans use An herb where English people say a herb.
There are virtually no words beginning with H that Bris put 'An' in front of.
I think... but then who knows what happens in the last 15 years?


1mks  (Level: 221.0 - Posts: 5929)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 10:14 AM

I was always taught that if a word begins with a vowel, you use "an"...regardless of the pronunciation.

Rnmorg  (Level: 128.2 - Posts: 689)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 10:18 AM

Well, not necessarily. What if it is a dipthong which makes a "Y" sound, like "eu" ? I could certainly have A euphoric episode...right?

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 10:49 AM

You can always circumvent by having multiple euphoric episodes.

Rnmorg  (Level: 128.2 - Posts: 689)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 10:57 AM

Why thank you...don't mind if I do! Wheeeeee!

Allena  (Level: 268.6 - Posts: 1413)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 11:55 AM

A user can have an unusual problem but an Irishman is still an English nemisis according to a European Queen. Small wonder Lodi needed an explanation of a euphoric solution.

Smoke20  (Level: 62.6 - Posts: 2815)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 12:00 PM

Say what?

Papermanbill  (Level: 41.3 - Posts: 1312)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 12:20 PM

Is someone talkin' dirty in hear ??

Davidf  (Level: 102.1 - Posts: 746)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 12:36 PM

I know the French have a silent h, erbs and herbs are confusing, I say herbs, as in look at my herbs

Tuzilla  (Level: 146.4 - Posts: 3843)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 12:42 PM


Circle the one that sounds right before the word: A or AN

1. A or AN? uncle

2. A or AN? union (HINT: Yuh is not a vowel sound)

3. A or AN? hog

4. A or AN? hour

5. A or AN? herb (Do you and your friends disagree? HINT: Some words can be pronounced more than one way.)

6. A or AN? history (HINT: go by the sound. Sometimes you'll see people use AN before HISTORY or HISTORICAL, but don't be confused. These people think they are being correct, but they are actually being very fuddy-duddy about this word. They should write AN only if they actually say 'ISTORY or 'ISTORICAL, as the words used to be pronounced long ago.)

(scroll down for answer)

Answers: 1 an, 2 a, 3 a, 4 an, 5 either a or an is correct depending on whether you say 'erb or herb, 6 a

This is according to Dr. Thomas Nunnally, associate professor of English, with AU's (Auburn) College of Liberal Arts.

Eesusbejesus  (Level: 75.0 - Posts: 3641)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 1:41 PM

Thanks! That's how I always felt about it but thought I would ask all you smart people.

Nelly  (Level: 181.0 - Posts: 1167)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 1:44 PM

I agree with Steve above. Barry we still use 'an' before an h here - I would always say AN hotel etc.

Papajensai  (Level: 203.1 - Posts: 1025)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 1:45 PM

Would you say an human being?

Redwingchick  (Level: 91.1 - Posts: 420)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 1:46 PM

Honestly, sometimes I drop my H when I say historical and I am as un-British as they come. Never when I say history though. It just sounds right to me sometimes.

Nelly  (Level: 181.0 - Posts: 1167)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 2:36 PM

Ron - Now you've got me thinking! Personally I would say A human being, A horse, A history of drama but strangely I would say AN historical event and AN hotel. Work that one out! After some research, I was still unable to determine why - so I've come to the conclusion that perhaps it just 'sounds right'!

Interestingly, I think whether one uses 'an' before an 'h', rather depends on age and upbringing today. I'm obviously an old fuddy duddy!

Looking it up in dictionaries (Oxford English) published between 1973 and 1996, it's interesting how vocabulary has changed.

1973 Shorter Oxford Dictionary (2 large volumes!)
"AN - The older and fuller form of 'a', now retained only before a vowel sound, by most writers before 'h' and by some before 'eu, u (= yu)in unaccented syllables."

1996 Oxford Compact English Dictionary
"AN - The form of the indefinite article used before words beginning with a vowel sound (an egg, an hour, an MP).
"(Usage - Some people retain the use of 'an' before words beginning with a sounded 'h' e.g. an hotel, an historian. Historically this was justifiable because the h was dropped in these words, but today this is not the case and a hotel, a historian are now the preferred forms."


Papajensai  (Level: 203.1 - Posts: 1025)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 4:58 PM

Ij'm a pretty old guy who learned to talk from my mother, an American who majored in English and insisted on proper English of the American sort, and I would say A Hotel and A Historical event. If I pronounce the H then it's A. I would say An herb because I don't pronounce the h, Eddie Izzard to the contrary notwithstanding.

Eesusbejesus  (Level: 75.0 - Posts: 3641)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 5:18 PM

Thanks RJ - you're the beast.

Tuzilla  (Level: 146.4 - Posts: 3843)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 5:23 PM

More from the same source as my other comment. RJ, to answer your question above.

It would depend on who I was talking about in here...(duck and cover).

Before I can answer your question about A and AN, I need to make a few points. First, all languages are constantly changing, so after a long time, the early form of a language is very different from the present form. One way languages sometimes change is for certain vowel sounds to shift. For example a thousand years ago, BAN (pronounced BAHN) was the word for BONE. Yes, it's hard to see it now, but a thousand years ago, AN (pronounced AHN) was the word for ONE (just like BAN was the word for BONE). So as the language developed, English speakers kept the old way of spelling "one" to put before any singular indefinite noun, like AN APE (that means there's just one ape, and it's not a particular or definite one). But English speakers used the new form of "one," spelled ONE, to mean the number "one."

Second, here's another way languages change. Often the last sounds of words drop off when it's easier to pronounce the word with other words. For example, did you know that ICE CREAM used to be ICED CREAM? Did you know that "I" used to be "IC" (pronounced just like "itch"!). And I'll bet you say, "I USE TO" rather than "I USEDuh TO," even though we still spell it USED.
When AN came before a word starting with a CONSONANT sound, it was easier to drop the N sound and just say A. Try it yourself. Is it easier to say AN TRAIN or A TRAIN, to say AN BOAT or A BOAT? But when AN came before a vowel sound, it was easier to keep the N sound because it makes going to the vowel sound of the next word smoother. Try it yourself. Is it easier to say AN APPLE or A APPLE, to say AN EGG or A EGG? (By the way some folks DO use A before all words just fine, but most speakers of English use AN before words starting with vowel sounds and A before words starting with non-vowel (or consonant) sounds-we call the type of English most preferred, the one we learn to write with in school, STANDARD ENGLISH).

So why is it hard sometimes to know whether to use A or AN? That brings up my third point. English started being written down over a thousand years ago, so some spellings are very old. At one time English spelling really did show how the word sounded, but as the language changed, the spellings didn't keep up. That explains why many English word spellings don't work very well to express how a word sounds. For example, KNIGHT used to be pronounced more like it is spelled, something like K-NIH-K-T! Also, some words came into English from other languages and were pronounced differently from how their spelling looked. For example, look at the word HOUR taken from French. Do you see that the H is not pronounced?

Putting all these facts together, you see that standard English requires us to say AN before any word starting with a vowel SOUND (it doesn't matter how the word is spelled, just how it is pronounced) and to say A before any word starting with a consonant (non-vowel) sound (again, no matter how it is spelled, just how it is pronounced). So, follow your ear: if the word starts with a vowel sound, use AN. If it starts with a consonant sound, use A. Try these words out yourself. If you trust your ear, I bet you'll get them right.

Bushyfox  (Level: 174.4 - Posts: 2403)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 7:43 PM

The American "erb" for "herb" has always bothered me. We Aussies say "Herb", no matter what.

What puzzelates me even more is the question of how an American would address a man named Herbert???


Kaufman  (Level: 269.8 - Posts: 3943)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 8:20 PM

If we saw the author of Dune with a sprig of rosemary hanging out of his mouth, we'd generally say we say a Herbert chewing on an herb.

Jespur  (Level: 114.2 - Posts: 38)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 10:17 PM

I love a good Dune reference! Not easy to bring into a chat about grammar- but well done.


Leeze83  (Level: 35.2 - Posts: 70)
Wed, 16th Apr '08 11:59 PM

I had a huge issue with this too! I remember as a kid, and we would get heaps of american TV, and hearing them talk about 'erbs'. It took me years to work out what they were talking about!! (or maybe it's just my rather small intellect being uncovered!). We also would always pronounce the H. And were very strict about the A/an rules.

reading this though, i did realise that i say AN 'our (hour). Where on earth did that come from? I didn't realise i did it, and now my whole belief system is ruined!!!!

Papermanbill  (Level: 41.3 - Posts: 1312)
Thu, 17th Apr '08 5:16 AM

Hey Bev, In Brooklyn they are called "Oybs". Or just Zalt and peppuh.

Soldotna  (Level: 27.7 - Posts: 145)
Thu, 17th Apr '08 1:48 PM I know why I missed you guys!

Phitzy1  (Level: 66.4 - Posts: 873)
Thu, 17th Apr '08 10:27 PM

The only Herb I know wore white patent leather shoes and bad plaid suits...


Chickfbref1  (Level: 120.7 - Posts: 2011)
Thu, 17th Apr '08 10:32 PM

Oh then Foxy, how do the Aussies say honest?

Honest...or on est?


Bushyfox  (Level: 174.4 - Posts: 2403)
Fri, 18th Apr '08 2:19 AM

Fro Kelly/Chick:~

We say onest.........Honest we do!!!


Rowlanda  (Level: 70.0 - Posts: 2853)
Fri, 18th Apr '08 3:02 AM

See what you started????
Bejesus Eesus

Papermanbill  (Level: 41.3 - Posts: 1312)
Fri, 18th Apr '08 3:11 AM

Hey Kelly, How many people do you know that say "you's" guys and watch football at "Soldier's" Field ??

Achad  (Level: 213.6 - Posts: 661)
Fri, 18th Apr '08 6:31 AM

And who can forget Roobarb & Custard!

Bushyfox  (Level: 174.4 - Posts: 2403)
Fri, 18th Apr '08 6:43 AM

OMG Martin! That link went way over into the neighbor's place!


Nelly  (Level: 181.0 - Posts: 1167)
Fri, 18th Apr '08 6:30 PM

Hey Martin - you're in trouble if Diva sees that link .......""!

Pages:  1    

Copyright © 2003-2017 Sploofus Holdings LLC.  All rights reserved.
Legal Notice & Privacy Statement  |  Link to Sploofus