RE: a vs. an

Subject: RE: a vs. an
From: iain -at- hairydog -dot- co -dot- uk (Iain Harrison)
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 19:44 +0000 (GMT Standard Time)

> The {old fuddy-duddy|Purist|pedantic} (choose one) rule is that if the
> word has more than three syllables, _an_ is the correct choice.

Let's try that one for size:

An proclivity? Nope
A egg? Nope

I rather think it depends on whether the first letter sound is a vowel,
and bears no relation to the length of the word.


The confusion arises where the spelled and spoken versions don't match,
such as when a word starts with a silent consonant. Maybe that is more
common in longer words, but I don;t think there's a valid rule based on
that criterion.

Hmm... three syllables:

A hat - 1
A hassle - 2
A harbinger - 3
A helicopter - 4

None of these would be correct with "an" in my view.

Seriously, it does depend solely on how a word is pronounced. For example,
"a hatchet" is always correct, but "a hotel" could be OK (if you say the
"h"). However as the word is strictly a french word with a silent "h", it
is equally correct to use "an hotel" although I personally think that this
pronunciation is pretentious.



iain -at- hairydog -dot- co -dot- uk
iainh -at- cix -dot- co -dot- uk

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