Learn how to use A versus AN in English.
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.
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:
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.
He was sitting in a chair.
She had a bottle in each hand.
Did you bring an umbrella?
I would like an apple.
5. ‘a’ or ‘an’ must be used before the names of professions.
She is a director.
Peter is an actor.
6. Words like hero, genius, fool, thief and liar take the indefinite article.
We all regarded him as a hero.
I suspect he is a thief.
7. The following word has indefinite article. Such + a/an + noun (or) Such + a/an + adjective + noun
Such a policy
Such a long trip
Such a great teacher
Such an attractive woman
8. The following word has indefinite article. so + adjective + a/an + noun.
So boring a book
So beautiful an actress
9. ‘Few’ and ‘Little’ are negative meaning. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’ are positive and mean ‘some‘.
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.
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 novel with an intricate plot.
11. A, an = one thing or person.
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.
12. We use a/an when we say what a thing or a person is.
“Coca Cola” is a beverage.
Badminton is an indoor game.
A dog is a domestic animal.
Mary is a shy girl.
13. We use a/an for jobs, etc.
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.
A dog is a faithful animal.
Dogs are faithful animals.