A vs. an! When speaking or writing in English, you will notice that there are two forms of the indefinite article, ‘a’ and ‘an’, but which one should you use and when? In this section, we are going to be studying the two forms of the indefinite article as a way of gaining a greater understanding of their use. By the end of the section, you will confident in choosing whether to use ‘a’ or ‘an’ in your spoken and written English.
Learn how to use indefinite articles A and An correctly in English with 13 useful grammar rules and example sentences.
Indefinite Articles – A or An
What are Indefinite Articles? A and An
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. For example:
- A man
- A hat
- A lamp
- A teacher
- A cat
- A book
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. For example:
- An apple
- An egg
- An island
- An article
- An umbrella
- An hour
How to Use A vs. An – Image 1
How to Use A vs. An – Image 2
A vs. An | 13 Rules for Using Indefinite Articles
‘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. For example:
- A Euro
- A unicycle
- A union,
- A unique
- A united
- A university
- A user
- A unicorn
Sometimes, ‘an’ is found before words beginning with the letter ‘h’.
Silent ‘h’ : ‘an’ is used before these words. For example:
- An hour
- An honor
- An heir
- An heirloom
- An hourly
- An honorarium
- An honesty
- An honorary
But this practice is going out. If ‘h’ is pronounced, ‘a’ is used:
- A hamburger
- A hall
- A hat
- A hacksaw
- A horse
- A house
We use ‘an’ before abbreviations that begin with vowel sound. For example:
- An M.A.
- An M.Sc.
- An M.B.B.S.
- An M.L.A.
- An N.C.C Officer
- An M.Com.
- An M.C.A
- An M.B.A
A or an must be used before a singular noun standing for things that can be counted. For example:
- He was sitting in a chair.
- She had a bottle in each hand.
- Did you bring an umbrella?
- I would like an apple.
A or an must be used before the names of professions. For example:
- She is a director.
- Peter is an actor.
Words like hero, genius, fool, thief, and liar take the indefinite article. For example:
- We all regarded him as a hero.
- I suspect he is a thief.
The following word has indefinite article. Such + a/an + noun (or) Such + a/an + adjective + noun. For example:
- Such a policy
- Such a long trip
- Such a great teacher
- Such an attractive woman
The following word has indefinite article. so + adjective + a/an + noun. For example:
- So boring a book
- So beautiful an actress
‘Few’ and ‘Little’ are negative meaning. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’ are positive and mean ‘some‘. For example:
- He is young and has little experience of life.
- Sweeten the mixture with a little honey.
- He had few coppers in his pocket.
- I went to spend a few days at the seaside.
In its original numerical sense of one. For example:
- Not a word was said.
- Twelve inches make a foot.
- A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- I have a novel with an intricate plot.
A an = one thing or person. For example:
- She works in a hospital.
- There’s a problem with the drains.
- I’ve got a puppy.
- There was a girl sitting next to him.
We use a an when we say what a thing or a person is. For example:
- “Coca Cola” is a beverage.
- Badminton is an indoor game.
- A dog is a domestic animal.
- Mary is a shy girl.
We use a an for jobs, etc. For example:
- She works as a nurse in a hospital.
- John is a fireman.
- I want to be a doctor.
- She is a cashier in a bank.
Note: The indefinite articles are not used before plural nouns, proper nouns, abstract nouns, uncountable and material nouns. For example:
- A dog is a faithful animal.
- Dogs are faithful animals.
Rules for Using Articles A vs. An – Image 3
A vs. An: How to Use Indefinite Articles A and An Correctly