Generally speaking "an" is used for words that begin with a vowel (An apple, an ocelot) or words that have the vowel sound lean (an hour).
"A" is used the rest of the time, and you will notice that "U" words do not consider "Y" a vowel at this point (A unicorn)
an is used before any vowel. An enemy. An item.An asteroid etc.
"an" is used before a word beginning with a vowel, aeiou
"a" is used before a word beginning with a consonant.
hmmm, not an English teacher but,
these are Indefinite articles that usually introduce nouns or noun clauses; you use "a" for a single noun and "an" a single noun that begins with a vowel, or h.
a giraffe, a large building, an oven, an honest person
you shouls always use 'a', except for when the following word begins with a vowel sound, then you use 'an'.
I had a piece of pie.
I had an apple.
If the first letter is not a vowel, but it has a vowle sound then use 'an'.
I have an X-Box game system.
it would be an honor student. The h is silent in honor so it's like the word is starting with a vowel.
Generally if a word begins with a vowel or vowel sound you use an and a for consonants.
a piece of paper
however...as I was going through this I realized that for words that start with u you would use a, like
The difference between a and an doesn't come from how things are written, but their sound. If the sound is a vowel sound (a eiou) you use an. Listen to honor. The first sound is ah, not an h sound. That is also why you have "an X-Box, "because it is pronounce "ex-box."
The reason that it is a unicorn is because the first sound is a "y" sound, which is a consonant.
I guess the thing to keep in mind is that the rules for a and an most likely started before English was written so the rules come from how they are said.
As a general rule, an is used where there is a following word that begins with any of the vowels a, e, i, o or u.
An is also used when the following word does not start with a vowel, but the pronunciation of the word sounds like a vowel sound. Example: an hour, a half hour.
There is also a major exception to this usage when a following word starts with the vowel u, but the previous word is not always an. If the following word starting with u has a pronunciation of u as in 'ewe', then the previous word would be a and not an. Example: a unicorn, a useful tool, an underdog, an upstart. In these four examples, the first two have a u since the u in the succeeding words is pronounced as in 'ewe' whereas in the third and fourth examples, the u in the succeeding words is not pronounced as in 'ewe' but something of a combination of a and e.
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