Using “A” & “An” in English

USING “a” AND “an”

“a” and “an” are the same article which is “ indefinite article”. Although they are used for same purpose in a sentence, there are some similarities and differences in using of them.

Using “a”:

1. a” is used in front of singular countable nouns ( a person, animal or thing ) which are not specific.

In other words;

When we use “a”, we do not talk about a specific thing or item. We mention any one of items. It doesn’t matter which one it is.

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Examples:

  • a train ( we do not talk about a specific train. We mention any one of trains )
  • a window
  • a cat

2.a” is not used with plural countable or uncountable nouns.

Examples:

  • a love ( wrong ) love ( correct )
  • a football ( wrong ) football ( correct )
  • a money ( wrong ) money ( correct )

3. If a noun starts with a consonant sound (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, etc.), “a” is used before the noun.




Examples:

  • a dentist
  • a country
  • a mountain

4. If a noun starts with a vowel letter, but it’s pronanciation ( sound of the word )  starts with a consonant, ‘a’ is used.

Examples:

  • a university ( “u” sound like yu )
  • a European ( “e” sound like y )
  • a uniform ( “u” sound like yu )



 Attention!!

In english, sounds of the words are important for using articles “a/an”.

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The sounds are significant, not the letters.

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5. If a noun include adjective or adverb starting with a consonant sound, “a” is used

Examples:

  • a nice movie
  • a successful man
  • a universal language ( “u” sound like yu )

Using “an”:

1.an” is used in front of singular countable nouns ( a person, animal or thing ) which are not specific.

In other words;

When we use “an”, we do not talk about a specific thing or item. We mention any one of items. It doesn’t matter which one it is.

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( Same usage with “a” / Similarity )

Examples:

  • an airport ( we do not talk about a specific airport. We mention any one of airports )
  • an iceberg
  • an election



2.an” is not used with plural countable or uncountable nouns. ( Same usage with “a” / Similarity )

Examples:

  • an education ( wrong ) education ( correct )
  • an equipment ( wrong ) equipment ( correct )
  • an information ( wrong ) information ( correct )

3. If a noun starts with a vowel sound (b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, etc.), “an” is used before the noun.

( Different usage with “a” / Dissimilarity )

Examples:

  • an umbrella
  • an ice cream
  • an inspector

4. If a noun starts with a consonant letter, but it’s pronanciation ( sound of the word )  starts with a vowel, ‘an’ is used. ( Different usage with “a” / Dissimilarity )

Examples:

  • an hour ( “h” is silent )
  • an ‘N’ letter  ( “f” sound like en )
  • an x-ray ( “x” sound like ex )



 Attention!!

In english, sounds of the words are important for using articles “a/an”. The sounds are significant, not the letters.

5. If a noun include adjective or adverb starting with a vowel sound, an” is used. ( Different usage with “a” / Dissimilarity )

Examples:

  • an interesting book
  • an unusual sport
  • an honest man ( “h” is silent )

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