Learn how to use A versus AN in English.
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Indefinite Articles – A versus An
What are Indefinite Articles?
The words a and an are called indefinite articles. We can use them with singular nouns to talk about any single person or thing.
Deciding which indefinite article to place in front of a word depends upon the initial sound of the word, not the first letter of the word.
When to use ‘A’
‘A’ is used before words beginning with a consonant sound.
When to use AN
The article ‘an’ should be placed before words that begin with a vowel sound.
The initial sound should be a, e, i, o, or u.
A versus An | 13 Rules for Using Indefinite Articles
1.‘A’ must be used before words which begin with a vowel symbol pronounced with the same sound as the ‘y’ or a ‘w’-like sound.
A useful thing,
A one-eyed giant,
A one-dollar note.
2. Sometimes, ‘an’ is found before words beginning with the letter ‘h’.
- Silent ‘h’ : ‘an’ is used before these words.
- But this practice is going out. If ‘h’ is pronounce, ‘a’ is used:
A human being.
3. We use ‘an’ before abbreviations that begin with vowel sound.
An N.C.C Officer,
4. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before a singular noun standing for things that can be counted.
England is a country.
London is a city.
Rice is a cereal.
A dog is an animal.
5. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before the names of professions.
His father is a doctor.
She is an engineer.
6. Words like hero, genius, fool, thief and liar take the indefinite article.
Beware of that fellow; he is a liar.
My friend is a genius.
7. The following word has indefinite article. Such + a/an + noun (or) Such + a/an + adjective + noun
Such a thing,
Such a person,
Such an honor,
Such an interesting story.
8. The following word has indefinite article. so + adjective + a/an + noun.
So interesting a person,
So nice an opportunity.
9. ‘Few’ and ‘Little’ are negative meaning. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’ are positive and mean ‘some‘.
He has little knowledge of this subject.
I have a little money on me.
He has few friends.
I have a few books on this subject.
10. In its original numerical sense of one.
Not a word was said.
Twelve inches make a foot.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
I have a book.
11. A, an = one thing or person.
Sara works in a bank.
Can I ask a question?
I have not got a car.
There’s a woman at the bus stop.
12. We use a/an when we say what a thing or a person is.
The sun is a star.
Football is a game.
A mouse is an animal. It’s a small animal.
He is a very jolly person.
13. We use a/an for jobs, etc.
I am a dentist.
She is a student.
He is a teacher.
Are you an engineer?
Note : The indefinite articles are not used before plural nouns, proper nouns, abstract nouns, uncountable and material nouns.
A dog is a faithful animal.
Dogs are faithful animals.