Appendix:English articles

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Main category: English articles

Indefinite singular articles[edit]

The word an is used before vowel sounds, and a before consonant sounds:

a dog
an egg
an hour (the h is not pronounced)
a hog (the h is pronounced)
a yak (y is a consonant sound in this word)
an yngling (y represents a vowel sound)
a user (has /j/ as its initial sound, which is a consonant)
an umbrella (has /ʌ/ as its initial sound, which is a vowel)
a woman (/w/ is a consonant)
a one (has /w/ as its initial sound, which is a consonant)
an onion (has /ʌ/ as its initial sound, which is a vowel)
  • There is one occasional exception. The form an is sometimes used before h even when the h is pronounced, but usually only when the first syllable is not accented. The usual example is an historic occasion. Though current in some dialects that pronounce the h, this is considered by many to be affected, pedantic or obsolete.

A before vowel letters[edit]

Some words, such as one, user and university, begin with vowel letters but consonant sounds. These are preceded by a, not an. Historically, many of these words could be preceded by an, but this is because they used to begin with vowel sounds; so an can still be said to occur only before vowel sounds.

Definite article[edit]

The word the is used as the definite article for both singular and plural nouns, and before vowel sound and consonant sounds alike. However, for many English speakers, the pronunciation is /ðə/ before a consonant sound and /ðɪ/ before a vowel sound; this distinction is not indicated in writing. The pronunciation /ði/ is also used for emphasis; this is indicated in writing by italics, as in “the best” (followed by a noun).

See also[edit]