Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. Member
    Student or Learner
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Serbo-Croatian
      • Home Country:
      • Serbia
      • Current Location:
      • Serbia

    • Join Date: Aug 2015
    • Posts: 182
    #1

    'an historical novel'

    Hello,

    My grammar book suggests using "an" before "historical" and similar words when there is "an unaccented syllable beginning with h", e.g. an historical novel.
    This grammar book may be outdated though. Would you say that it's possible to use both "a" and "an" in such cases?

  2. Piscean's Avatar
    VIP Member
    Retired English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • Europe
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jul 2015
    • Posts: 13,481
    #2

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    Some older speakers of BrE say 'an'; their /h/ is hardly aspirated. I suggest that learners use 'a' and a fully aspirated /h/.

  3. Member
    Student or Learner
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Serbo-Croatian
      • Home Country:
      • Serbia
      • Current Location:
      • Serbia

    • Join Date: Aug 2015
    • Posts: 182
    #3

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    I always stick to the most common forms when I should say or write something. I'd just like to know what possible alternatives are. And of course, I'm primarily interested in what's used in modern language.

    Does the same go for "an hotel"? (I see that a dictionary also gives the pronunciation /oʊˈtel/.)


    When it comes to "a herb" and "an herb", is the latter used only in AmE? If it is used in BrE as well, is such pronunciation also seen as outdated?

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
    Moderator
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 47,433
    #4

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    My grandfather (born 1921) was the last person I knew who said "an (h)istorical", "an (h)otel" etc. Until about twenty years ago, you could still hear it sometimes from BBC newsreaders but I'm pretty sure they've dropped it in favour of the fairly universal "a historical", "a hotel" etc.

    I have only ever heard "an (h)erb" in AmE. The first time I was offered "erb toast" at an American restaurant, I was completely baffled. There were two reasons for that - 1) The "h" at the start of "herb" was not used and 2) we don't have anything called "herb toast" in the UK. The closest thing we have is "garlic bread" (which is, in fact, baked bread with garlic butter!)
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 6,071
    #5

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    There are plenty of BrE-speakers I know who do not pronounce the initial h of any words, which leads to forms such as an house, an half and an helicopter. Though considered non-standard, this is very common, both regionally and sociologically.

  6. emsr2d2's Avatar
    Moderator
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 47,433
    #6

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    The BrE speakers I know who do that aren't doing it out of some attempt to stick to past "correct pronunciation". They're just too lazy to pronounce the "h" so it's easier to stick "an" in front of what is now a vowel sound. I would say that some people still consider those that "drop their aitches" to be very common (lower class).

    In the wonderful film My Fair Lady, there is a great scene in which Professor Higgins is trying to get Eliza Dolittle to say "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen". In her "street girl" accent, it comes out as "In Artford, Ereford and Ampshire, urricanes ardly hever appen". The reason the "ever" suddenly gets an "h" at the beginning is that when common people are trying to sound posh, they put an "h" sound at the beginning of words that start with a vowel sound, thinking that that makes them sound "upper class".

    You can treat yourself to it here.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  7. VIP Member
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Mar 2014
    • Posts: 6,071
    #7

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    The BrE speakers I know who do that aren't doing it out of some attempt to stick to past "correct pronunciation". They're just too lazy to pronounce the "h" so it's easier to stick "an" in front of what is now a vowel sound.
    "Lazy"?! (I don't know how to respond to this as I'm not sure you're being serious.)

  8. VIP Member
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • American English
      • Home Country:
      • United States
      • Current Location:
      • United States

    • Join Date: Dec 2015
    • Posts: 12,368
    #8

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    They're just too lazy to pronounce the "h" ....
    No! They don't pronounce the H because in the language they learned, initial H​s are generally silent.

    You will often hear Americans in formal situations say an historic and an historical, both with an aspirated H, because at some point in their education, they learned that these oddities are "correct".

    (I wrote "in their education, they learned" rather than "they were taught" because I fondly hope that few teachers would present such silliness to their students and the people who use this forced pronunciation learned it from some outdated book.)
    I am not a teacher.

  9. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
    English Teacher
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • Laos

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
    • Posts: 63,719
    #9

    Re: 'an historical novel'

    Quote Originally Posted by Meja View Post
    Does the same go for "an hotel"? (I see that a dictionary also gives the pronunciation /oʊˈtel/.)
    I only know one person, who is getting on in years, who still says an hotel. Quite a few people use an historical and pronounce the /h/ as they thinkit's good style, which it isn't, and fewer say it without the /h/, but of these, only a small group do it with hotel. I'd take Piscean's advice.

Similar Threads

  1. [Vocabulary] historic - historical
    By virus99 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 30-Mar-2012, 13:58
  2. historic or historical
    By chrysanthemum in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-Dec-2011, 16:06
  3. [Vocabulary] Historic vs Historical
    By Anewguest in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-Feb-2011, 00:49
  4. historic and historical?
    By nado92 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 26-Feb-2010, 06:25
  5. selective historical
    By nimsooze in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 28-May-2008, 16:01

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •