Grammar Language

Difference Between A and An

A vs An

Summary: Difference Between A and An is that A is used when the first letter of the word following has the sound of a consonant while An is used when the first letter of the word following has the sound of a vowel.

Difference Between A and An

Difference between A and An

Both ‘A’ and ‘An’ are articles. According to English grammar both ‘A’ and ‘An’ are articles used with singular nouns. Articles are those words that modifies noun. Articles are of two types:

  • Definite articles: Referring to specific thing or person
  • Indefinite articles: Referring to non-specific thing or person

“A” and “An” are indefinite articles; they indicate nouns that is one of many.

The usage of articles ‘A’ and ‘An’ depends upon the initial sound of the word not the initial letter. However, there is no difference in their usage in the sentences. Both are used to point out common nouns

Usage of Article A

A is used before all words that start with a consonant sound.

Usage of An

An is used before words that start with vowel sound. Vowels include (a, e, I, o, u). Sometimes vowel deviates from this rule as they sound like consonants. So even if a consonant sounds like vowel we will use ‘an’ before it.

Exceptions:

  • ‘An’ is not used with ‘U’ when ‘U’ sounds as ‘EU’ a consonant sound. In this case ‘U’ is preceded by article ‘A’.
  • Article ‘A’ is used instead of ‘an’ when ‘O’ sounds as ‘W’.
  • When ‘EU’ or ‘E’ sounds like ‘Y’ then ‘A’ is used.
  • When ‘H’ is silent then general rule is not followed so here ‘A’ is not used.
  • When ‘U’ sounds like ‘Y’ then in this case A is used instead of An.

Examples using Article A:

  • I saw a tiger in jungle.
  • I read a book.
  • He bought a copy.
  • She met a boy
  • She made a painting.

Examples using Article An:

  • I saw an elephant.
  • I spent an hour writing the article.
  • She is an English teacher
  • Can I have an apple?
  • She ate an egg.

Exceptions with Examples

When ‘h’ is silent, in this case ‘an’ is used

  1. Mr Ali is an honest man.
  2. It is an honour for me to be the part of your organization.
  3. I will be there in an hour.

When ‘a’ makes the sound as ‘w’, in this case ‘a’ is used

  1. A one-legged army man walked in.
  2. This is a one man game.

When ‘u’ sound like ‘eu’, in this case ‘a’ is used

  1. He is a European national.
  2. This a European league football championship match.

When ‘u’ sounds like ‘y’, in this case ‘a’ is used

  1. I saw a unicorn in my dream
  2. It is a usability analysis of website
  3.  I sent my thesis to a university in America

When not to use Articles?

  1. Do not use a/an before names of meals like lunch, dinner, breakfast.
  2. I ate dinner
  3. Bring me breakfast

We do not use a/an before uncountable nouns like air, water, advice, music etc.

  1. I drank water
  2. I listened to music

We do not use a/an while talking generally about school, college etc.

  1. I go to school

We do not use a/an before names of shops

  1. I went to grocery store
  2. I will wait for you at coffee shop

 

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