Grammar Repair Shop: When to choose ‘a’ vs. ‘an’ — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Grammar Repair Shop: When to choose ‘a’ vs. ‘an’

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Problem: "I know to use the article 'an' before a vowel," writes Penny Perkins, Dayton, Ohio. "Do you use 'an' before a silent 'h,' as in 'an honor student?'"

Lesson: The key is the sound, not the letter, that follows "a" or "an." For example, you would write "a" before a word that starts with the long "u" sound, such as a "uniform," in which the "u" is pronounced like "you."


"An honor student," because the "h" is silent and the word begins with a soft "o" sound.

"A historic event," because the word begins with the "hah" or hard "h" sound.

"A one-year contract," because "one" starts with a "w" sound.

"An X-ray technician," because the sound is "eks."

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