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  1. #1
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    Default 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 22:42. Reason: Version 1.5

  2. #2
    emsr2d2's Avatar
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    Default 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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    Default 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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    Default 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
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    Default 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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    Default 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
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    Default re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    You're welcome

    I made some explanations regarding the +-, but I will move them a bit.

    A submarine. - An SLR McLaren [ES-EL-AR].

    Yes, anything like swim suit, shop etc needs an a.

    Edit
    I've just made a huge update!

    Cheers!
    Last edited by Nightmare85; 05-Jun-2010 at 16:23.

  8. #8
    Jaskin is offline Senior Member
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    Default re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    hi,
    Please note I'm not a teacher nor a native speaker.

    I just want t add a bit about the spelling of the alphabet. At the beginning I used to spell it in my native language.
    Your "system" seems to be influenced by your mother tongue i.e. Z! [Set].

    Could you say how did you come up with that particular way of spelling ?
    I'd say is inconsistent at times.

    There is the a few notation for the alphabet I'll look for it.

    Cheers

  9. #9
    Nightmare85's Avatar
    Nightmare85 is offline Senior Member
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    Default re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    Hey,
    I just learned it in school (many years ago).

    I found this table here:
    Englisches Alphabet ? Wikipedia

    Not sure if I should take the "IPA" entries.

    Cheers!

  10. #10
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default re: Nightmare85's "a/an alphabet"

    The idea's good.
    I think it's overly complicated. If something is ++ or --, then it's invariant, so why bother with the notation? You already have that covered with the preceding 'a' or 'an'.
    Also you need to do serious work on the spelling of the letter spellings for non-Germans.

    Isn't this much easier?

    Give me an A! []
    Give me a B! [bi]
    Give me a C! [si]
    Give me a D! [di]
    Give me an E! [i] *

    Let's pick the letters that have no asterisk
    They always take the form given.
    Last edited by Raymott; 06-Jun-2010 at 06:07.

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