When to use “A” vs “AN”

Articles are an important part of English Grammar. An article is a word that we use to modify the noun.

What is a noun?

A noun is a person, a place, an object, a thing or an idea. Nouns are split into common nouns such as words for animals, places, things, or people:

  1. doctor
  2. horse
  3. beach
  4. car

Proper nouns are names we use for particular places, people or things:

  1. John
  2. China
  3. Hollywood
  4. Mount Everest

(They’ll always start with a capital letter)

What is an article?

An article is an adjective used before a noun. Normally we use adjectives to describe a noun, but an article is used to refer directly to the noun.

When to use A

A is an indefinite article, which means we use it to refer to a general noun rather than a specific item. We use A when before a single noun when the first letter of the noun is a consonant:

  • A book
  • A car
  • A dog
  • A flag
  • A giraffe

When to use An

An is an indefinite article, which means we use it to refer to a general noun rather than a specific item. We use An when before a single noun when the first letter of the noun is a vowel:

  • An apple
  • An elephant
  • An igloo
  • An octopus
  • An umbrella

Exceptions A vs AN

There are a few exceptions to the general rules.

For example, in some words where we use a consonant as a first letter which has a vowel sound, we then use An:

  • An hour
  • An honor

And in reverse, in some words where we use a vowel as a first letter which has a consonant sound, we then use A:

  • A United States citizen
  • A university

This also happens with any acronyms:

  • An LCD screen
  • A ULR

Conclusion

So the most important thing to remember in A vs AN is the first sound of the following noun. If the noun starts with a consonant sound, use A. If a noun starts with a vowel sound, use An.

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