"An hour" or "a hour"

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5

Which indefinite article should precede houra or an?

  • an hour
  • a hour

Does the usage of an vs a depend on the pronunciation — a history, a hobby, but an hour, an honor?

user20

Posted 2013-01-24T20:15:16.993

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Answers

49

Does the usage of an vs a depends on the pronunciation: a history, a hobby, but an hour, an honor.

Yes. If a word begins with a vowel sound, then the correct article is an; otherwise, if it begins with a consonantal sound, the correct article is a.

Because hour is typically pronounced with a silent h, an hour is correct.

I wrote a blog post about an vs a on the EL&U blog some time ago, and it covers a wide variety of other cases that you might be interested in.

waiwai933

Posted 2013-01-24T20:15:16.993

Reputation: 3 277

18

An hour is correct, because "hour" begins with a vowel sound. A vs. an depends on pronunciation, not spelling.

Some notable cases:

  • A/an NIC (network interface card)--proper spelling depends on prounuciation... "A nick" vs. "an N-I-C"
  • A/an herb. "An erb" in most regions. "a herb" (with pronounced H) in some

Flimzy

Posted 2013-01-24T20:15:16.993

Reputation: 3 000

+1 for erb, herb I did not know that! :) – Maulik V – 2018-07-25T05:25:21.410

1Have you got a reference for saying that 'erb' is more common than 'herb'? :) – curiousdannii – 2014-09-27T07:10:12.863

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@curiousdannii: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/herb

– Flimzy – 2014-09-27T08:23:35.567

According to Wiktionary "US pronunciation of the word varies; some speakers include the h-sound and others omit it, with the h-less pronunciation being the more common. Individual speakers are consistent in their choice, but the choice does not appear to be correlated with any regional, socioeconomic, or educational distinctions." This is surprising! I'm still not sure if "most regions" is accurate, but it doesn't matter.

– curiousdannii – 2014-09-28T05:12:54.703

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You are correct in your assumption. The usage does depend on the pronunciation. If the subsequent word starts with a vowel sound, then the previous word must be an. If the word starts with a consonant sound, then the previous word is a.

Squazic

Posted 2013-01-24T20:15:16.993

Reputation: 2 218