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  1. #1
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    Hello guys,
    Many learners have problems with a and an.

    General rule (when to use a or an):
    Use a when the following word does not start with a spoken vowel.
    Example: A uniform.
    Use an when the following word starts with a spoken vowel.
    Example: An autograph.

    Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet".
    (Version 1.5)

    Whenever you use abbreviations like:
    An HTML site, An MPUK admin, A URL, A UFO, An SSE4.1 compatible CPU, An SQL server; you must simply remember that alphabet.
    It does not matter how the long version of an abbreviation is!
    A UFO -> An unidentified flying object; but not An UFO!!


    Give me a letter!
    Okay, here we go:
    Give me an A! [eɪ] +
    Give me a B! [biː] -
    Give me a C! [siː] -
    Give me a D! [diː] -
    Give me an E! [iː]
    Give me an F! [ɛf]
    Give me a G! [dʒiː] -
    Give me an H! [eɪtʃ]
    Give me an I! [aɪ] +
    Give me a J! [dʒeɪ] -
    Give me a K! [keɪ] -
    Give me an L! [ɛl]
    Give me an M! [ɛm]
    Give me an N! [ɛn]
    Give me an O! [oʊ]
    Give me a P! [piː] -
    Give me a Q! [kjuː] -
    Give me an R! [ɑr]
    Give me an S! [ɛs]
    Give me a T! [tiː] -
    Give me a U! [juː]
    Give me a V! [viː] -
    Give me a W! [ˈdʌbəljuː] -
    Give me an X! [ɛks]
    Give me a Y! [waɪ] -
    Give me a Z! [zɛd] -

    + = Any word which starts with such a letter will always require the article an
    - = Any word which starts with such a letter will always require the article a

    Examples:
    Let's pick the letters that have +.
    No matter what word you choose, as long as it starts with A or I, its article will always be an.
    An audience.
    An auto dealer.
    An avatar.
    An iceberg.
    An incredible moment.
    An internal error.

    Let's pick some letters that have -.
    No matter what word you choose, as long as it starts with B, C, T, etc, its article will always be a.
    A baby.
    A boomer.
    A celebration.
    A test.
    A theory.
    A tragic end.

    There are certain conditions for all other letters:
    A European. - An Emergency.
    A fish. - An FTP tool.
    A house. - An hour.
    A language. - An L.A.P.D. officer.
    A machine gun. - An MP3 player.
    A one-winged angel. - An oil rig.
    A rich person. - An RTL TV show.
    A submarine. - An SLR McLaren.
    A uniform - An unpleasant moment.
    A xylophone. - An Xbox 360.

    Only the word, which comes right after the a/an, matters:
    An admin. - A good admin. - An excellent admin. - A bad admin.

    If you are not sure, you must always ask yourself, "How do I pronounce the first letter?"
    "Is it a spoken vowel or not?"

    Thanks for reading!

    Version 1.1:
    - corrected "E" mistake (made +- out of ++)
    - added better explanation to the symbols
    - added another condition example with E.

    Version 1.2:
    - moved the explanation regarding the +- closer to the alphabet

    Version 1.3:
    - explained the symbols better and created better examples

    Version 1.4
    - corrected the O mistake
    - removed all +- symbols in order to make it clearer
    - fixed all phonetics
    - changed the order of some examples
    - added some advice sentences
    - reduced font size of the version history


    Version 1.5
    - added a general rule (when to use a
    or an)
    - removed a redundand intro sentence
    - moved and extended the "ask yourself"-sentence
    - fixed some minor comma mistakes

    Cheers!
    Last edited by Nightmare85; 18-Jun-2010 at 23:42. Reason: Version 1.5

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    I enjoyed your post! I find it quite difficult here in Spain to "spell" the pronunciation of specific letters and words, because how I pronounce a letter differs from how the Spanish naturally pronounce a letter. It's a learning curve.

    The only spelling of "h" I usually see is "aitch".

  3. #3
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    Thank you!

    By the way, I've just seen a serious mistake.

    Give me an E! [I] ++ -> wrong

    A European.

    Will be corrected later.
    (From ++ to +-)

    Cheers!

  4. #4
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    You're welcome.

    By the way, I have absolutely no idea at all what the symbols ++ +- and -- mean. Would you enlighten me?!

  5. #5
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    ++ = always an when a word starts with such a letter
    +- = a/an under certain conditions (see more information below)
    -- = always a when a word starts with such a letter

    Let's pick the A that has ++.

    No matter what word you choose, as long as it starts with A, its article will always be an.
    An audience.
    An auto dealer.

    Let's pick the T that has --.
    No matter what word you choose, as long as it starts with T, its article will always be a.
    A test.
    A theory.
    A tragic end.



    Cheers!

  6. #6
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare85 View Post
    ++ = always an when a word starts with such a letter
    +- = a/an under certain conditions (see more information below)
    -- = always a when a word starts with such a letter

    Let's pick the A that has ++.

    No matter what word you choose, as long as it starts with A, its article will always be an.
    An audience.
    An auto dealer.

    Let's pick the T that has --.
    No matter what word you choose, as long as it starts with T, its article will always be a.
    A test.
    A theory.
    A tragic end.



    Cheers!
    Ah, thanks for the explanation although you didn't give an example of +-
    However, may I take a guess? I'm assuming that "s" is one because before an actual word starting with "s", it takes "a", but before the initial "S", we say "an". Yes?

  7. #7
    mmasny is offline Key Member
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    Re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    The only spelling of "h" I usually see is "aitch".
    Is it? I also see "haitch" sometimes and my Irish teacher (gosh, how long ago it was!) would even say "hitch" (I never saw her write it though).

  8. #8
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    mmasny, you're right, but I did not include it since it might have confused members.
    The one site, where I took my information from, says:
    Sometimes pronounced [heɪtʃ] in Irish and Australian English.

    There are some exceptions anyway.
    Historic can be pronounced both [historic] and [istoric], which would mean both a and an can be right - probably depending on the location/place (where you are).

    By the way, I updated the main thread some hours ago.

    Version 1.5
    - added a general rule (when to use a
    or an)
    - removed a redundand intro sentence
    - moved and extended the "ask yourself"-sentence
    - fixed some minor comma mistakes


    Cheers!

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