When to say a or an?


indefinite article

When to say a or an?

The indefinite article is a or an. But how do we know when to say a and when to say an?

The rule is really very simple. It depends on the sound at the start of the following word.

It does not depend on the way we write the following word, it depends on the way we say it.


a + consonant sound

If the following word starts with a consonant sound, then we say a:

  • a dog
  • a game of tennis
  • a human emotion
  • a Portugese
  • a very nice day

an + vowel sound

If the following word starts with a vowel sound, then we say an:

  • an elephant
  • an easy test
  • an interesting book
  • an old man
  • an umbrella

The importance of sound

Normally, we pronounce consonant letters with a consonant sound, and vowel letters with a vowel sound. But there are some exceptions. The rule about a or an is still the same. You just need to think about the sound, not the writing.

Vowel letter but consonant sound
a European country
a one-day conference
a university


Consonant letter but vowel sound
an honest girl
an hour
an FBI agent

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