My Writers Circle

Writing => All the Write Questions => Topic started by: chillies on January 07, 2006, 10:04:58 AM

Title: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: chillies on January 07, 2006, 10:04:58 AM
This may seem like a stupid question, but here goes anyway:
when you talk about an object beginning with the letter H, do you proceed it with 'a' for example a horse; a house; a hotel, or do you say an horse; an house; an hotel.
As I said this does sound like a stupid question, but you would be suprised how many times I come across different variations.

Hope someone out there can help me

chillies
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: SuzieHarris on January 07, 2006, 11:28:15 AM
Hi Chillies,

The best way to make sure something 'sounds' right is to read it out loud.
For instance try saying; "I am going to look at an house" - it doesn't sound correct does it? Whereas "I am going to look at a house", does sound right.

Hope that helps,

Suzie xx

Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Lin on January 07, 2006, 12:05:41 PM
Do I detect here you might be referring more to the letter H as a vowel sound.  I do believe that in all the English language we refer to the Hotel as AN HOTEL.   I was always taught this in school as to say 'A Hotel' is harder than 'An Hotel' or depending on where you live you could say AY HOTEL phonetically speaking.   I do believe though the An Hotel is correct.  The reason for this is that the letter H is usually dropped to sound like AN 'OTEL.   I think this comes from the French where they drop the H and say L'Hotel again L'Otel.   We Brits have picked this up and so we use the AN to counteract the vowel sound.  From my Granny's book of English!!

The word AN is used when the following noun begins with a vowel. eg An elephant  If it begins with a consonant it is usually preceded by A alone. eg A dog

Hope this helps

Lin

Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: goldanon on January 07, 2006, 12:23:56 PM
I always thought that was an "english" versus "american" thing.  The english tend to put
'an' in front of words that americans never do (e.g. an hotel would sound really strange in this country - in fact it could only be said with an english-sounding accent).  On the other hand, since some americans say "erb" instead of "herb"  you'd think that it would be correct to put the "an" there at least sometimes in american - but it's still not.  H words, as far as I can tell always have the 'a' in front of it here, and ususally do NOT in england.
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: chillies on January 07, 2006, 12:37:26 PM
Thankyou for the comments so far. I think i've opened a can of worms.
As far as the word Hotel is concerned, I've always been taught to say an hotel, but you try to type that into a word document and a little wiggly line appears informing you that it should be a hotel. The same is true for history - as in an historically accurate account of events. Whilst we're on the subject, here in Greater Manchester we say 'an ouse' rather than a house, but that's just a regional thing.
Any comments about the word document situation?

chillies
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Lin on January 07, 2006, 01:33:24 PM
Well its all interesting stuff - we shall have to consult the oracle to find out - maybe in a good thesaurus or dictionary it may tell us the correct way, or perhaps it doesnt really matter these days.   Nice bit of research!

Lin :-\
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Nick on January 08, 2006, 05:33:56 AM
FWIW, I always go by pronunciation. After all, a common piece of advice for writers is "write as you speak".

I would therefore write "a house" or "a hotel", because that's how I would pronounce them. "An house" and "an hotel" look odd to me, and perhaps a bit old-fashioned or even pedantic. But equally, I can quite see that if in your dialect you don't pronounce the "h", the word "an" might appear more natural.

It is a vexing issue, I have to agree!  :)

Nick GM

Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: SuzieHarris on January 08, 2006, 08:05:51 AM
Nick,

It seems the English language is continually evolving. As we become more globally connected via the web, more colloquialisms will become accepted words, and world-wide standardisation of English is bound to happen. We are commonly seeing the letter Z appear in UK words where there used to be a S.
When I was at school it was also a big faux pas to use a comma before the word AND, now it's common place. You can even find swear words in the dictionary that I got the slipper for using hehe.

#times they are a changing....

Suzie x
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Lin on January 08, 2006, 08:10:30 AM
Just to be awkward as I am, I wonder if its worth contacting the Oxford Dictionary on their web site if they have one - Im sure they do.   There must be quite a number of contentious issues in the English Language and sometimes we may have to consult the Etymologists of this world.  Ive just looked and the web addy is  www.askoxford.com.   There is a language query page.   The whole site looks interesting too.

Lin

Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: chillies on January 08, 2006, 02:21:36 PM
Thanks Lin

Just viewed the website: www.askoxford.com, and you are correct, it is an interesting site. Infact, I think it has answered my question rather well.

If you use a word such as hour or heir where the 'h' is dropped, then you use 'an' - an hour; an heir. But when you use a word where the 'h' is used such as hotel or house, then you use 'a' - a hotel; a house.

I think I'll be using this site quite a lot in future.

Thanks to everyone for helping to clear this one up.

chillies
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: bestwriting on January 11, 2006, 04:07:42 PM
You used 'an' when the word followed starts with a vowel a.e.i.o.u. in most cases. eg: A house, a shoe, a banana

You used 'a' when the word followed starts with a constanant. in most cases. eg: An apple
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: goldanon on January 11, 2006, 05:04:11 PM
except for the 'u' - as someone else pointed out it goes by sound.  If it's a silent 'h' it gets an 'an' - same goes for the long 'u.' While vowels are always supposed to have the 'an' in front, the 'u' doesn't carry it when it's long.  I thinkthe 'h' and 'u' are the only exceptions to the consonant/vowel rule.
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Eroica on January 14, 2006, 12:55:16 PM
except for the 'u' - as someone else pointed out it goes by sound.  If it's a silent 'h' it gets an 'an' - same goes for the long 'u.' While vowels are always supposed to have the 'an' in front, the 'u' doesn't carry it when it's long.  I thinkthe 'h' and 'u' are the only exceptions to the consonant/vowel rule.
Don't forget e!

A European (though I have come across an European!).
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Maria on January 15, 2006, 07:44:28 PM
Hi Chillie, 

I think you may be right about opening a can of worms but thats how we all learn so what the heck.  When I was growing up I was always corrected if I said An House or An Hotel, my mother would say what is A Nouse or what is A Notel but again maybe it is regional and depends where you are from as to how you are expected to say or write it.  Just a thought.

Maria
x
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: chillies on January 16, 2006, 08:00:10 AM
Hello Maria,

I agree, It is a regional thing. But I think that these regional variations have only a very small field in which they can be used. It's true, that as far as conversation is concerned, you and I would be well placed to know just how local people would really speak, thereby giving a realism to certain pieces. But apart from that - I think the term is - "Perceived English" would be better used. This form of English is what most would consider to be a gramatically correct form of English. Certainly most English speakers throughout the country, not to mention abroad, would be able to understand it better.

Any comments from Anyone?

chillies
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Symphony on January 17, 2006, 06:23:44 AM
I think I'd agree that pronunciation is the best course - certainly when it's in a piece of dialogue. Funnily enough, I was always taught 'an hotel' in school, too - though Lord knows why! But this is really interesting because I'm continually stumped by things like 'an RAF pilot'. The 'rules' would dictate that it should be 'a' before the consonant, but that would make it impossible to read, so we have to take the pronunciation of the 'r' rather than the physical aspect of it. Is that right?

Chillies - the words are going to change from region to region, aren't they? The best Irish novelists still don't know the difference between 'bring' and 'take' - I still agonise over that one!!! Not to mention things like 'I didn't used to/I usedn't to' - one's Irish (and probably incorrect) and the other's English - and don't ask me which is which because I've decided to avoid both and find another way around them!!  :D :D
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: chillies on January 17, 2006, 01:49:03 PM
English certainly is a confusing language. I saw a documentary not long ago, which stated that before Henry viii created the Church of England, virtually every town in England had a different dialect. In fact at times a person from one town could not uderstand a person from a neighbouring town. When the Anglican faith started, the bible was allowed to be written in English  ( before this time it was only ever written in Latin). This was the start of a standardized form of English. It's just as well really, we could really have problems couldn't we? :D
Title: Re: 'A' or 'AN'
Post by: Symphony on January 18, 2006, 10:15:37 AM
 :D