When to Say "a" or "an"
The indefinite article is a or an. But how do we know when to say a and when to say an?
The rule is really very simple. It depends on the sound at the start of the following word. (It does not depend on the way we write the following word, it depends on the way we say it.)
A + consonant sound
If the following word starts with a consonant sound, then we say a.
|a game of golf|
|a human emotion|
|a very fat woman|
AN + vowel sound
If the following word starts with a vowel sound, then we say an.
|an extremely easy job|
|an interesting film|
|an old man|
The importance of sound
Normally, we pronounce consonant letters with a consonant sound, and vowel letters with a vowel sound. But there are some exceptions. The rule about a or an is still the same. You just need to think about the sound, not the writing. Look at these examples:
|consonant letter with vowel sound|
|an honest man||on-est|
|an FBI agent||eff-bee-eye|
|vowel letter with consonant sound|
|a European country||you-ro-pe-an|
|a one-day conference||won-day|
See also Linking