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Use of Articles

How to Use “A” and “An”


A and an are two of only three words known as articles in the English language. The is the third article. Since articles identify nouns, they always appear before them.


In general, a comes before words that begin with consonants such as a trip, a road, a beast, and a sandwich. An is used before words that begin with vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) such as an apple, an exception, and an onion.


This rule does not always apply because the use of a or an depends on the sound of the word and not just the first letter of the word that it precedes. The 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style” states the following:


“A comes before words with a consonant sound, including /y/, /h/, and /w/, no matter how the word is spelled {a eulogy} {a hotel suite} {a Ouachita tribe member}. An comes before words with a vowel sound {an LSAT exam room} {an X-Files episode} {an hour ago}.”


Other examples are listed below:


an HTML file                   a utopian paradise

an honorary title            a one-track mind

an MBA degree              a united front


Sources


The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition, The University of Chicago Press (2003).

Writing and Business, Articles: Three Small but Significant Words, http://professionalwritingservices.net/2012.11.01_arch.html.



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