A and AN

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How to use the words A and AN?

If the word following begins with a vowel sound, the word you want is an.

• Have an apple, Adam.

If the word following begins with a consonant, but begins with a vowel sound, you still need an.

• An X-ray will show whether there's a worm in it.

It is nonstandard and often considered sloppy speech to utter an
uh sound in such cases.

When the following word definitely begins with a consonant sound, you need a.

• A snake told me apples enhance mental abilities.

Note that the letter Y can be either a vowel or a consonant. Although it is sounded as a vowel in words like pretty, at the beginning of words it is usually sounded as a consonant, as in a yolk.

Words beginning with the letter U which start with a Y consonant sound like “university" and “utensil" also take an “a".

• A university
• A utensil

But when an initial U has a vowel sound, the word is preceded by

• an umpire
• an umbrella
• an understanding

Common Errors Index

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