"A" or "an" before "H" words

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The English language is certainly full of exceptions. There are rules, and then there are exceptions to these rules.

One rule that is hard-and-fast (fixed, strongly enforced) is with indefinite articles (a, an) before words:

  • Use “a” before words that begin with a consonant, such as “a surf board,” “a potato chip,” or “a crazy person.”
  • Use “an” before words that begin with a vowel as in “an exit,” “an avalanche,” or “an uncle.”

Simple, right? Then what about "H" words? Many letters of the English alphabet do more than one job. They are pronounced in some words and silent in others, so to use the correct indefinite article, the pronunciation of "H" words is key (very important).

  • Use “a” before words with a voiced “H” such as “a hero,” “a holiday” or “a hangover.”
  • Use “an” before words where you don’t pronounce the letter “H” such as “an herb,” “an hour,” or “an honest answer.”

Indefinite articles before words that begin with "H" are no problem if you know their correction English pronunciation.

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