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Indefinite Articles – A or An

The words a and an are called indefinite articles. We can use them with singular nouns to talk about any single person or thing. Deciding which indefinite article to place in front of a word depends upon the initial sound of the word, not the first letter of the word.

When to Use “A”

A’ is used before words beginning with a consonant sound. For example:

  • A man
  • A hat
  • A lamp
  • A teacher
  • A cat
  • A book

When to Use “AN

The article ‘an’ should be placed before words that begin with a vowel sound. The initial sound should be a, eio, or u. For example:

  • An apple
  • An egg
  • An island
  • An article
  • An umbrella
  • An hour

A vs An | 13 Rules for Using Indefinite Articles

Rule #1:

A’ must be used before words which begin with a vowel symbol pronounced with the same sound as the ‘y’ or a ‘w’-like sound. For example:

  • A Euro
  • A unicycle
  • A union,
  • A unique
  • A united
  • A university
  • A user
  • A unicorn

Rule #2:

Sometimes, ‘an’ is found before words beginning with the letter ‘h’.

Silent ‘h’ : ‘an’ is used before these words. For example:

  • An hour
  • An honor
  • An heir
  • An heirloom
  • An hourly
  • An honorarium
  • An honesty
  • An honorary

But this practice is going out. If ‘h’ is pronounced, ‘a’ is used:

  • A hamburger
  • A hall
  • A hat
  • A hacksaw
  • A horse
  • A house

Rule #3:

We use ‘an’ before abbreviations that begin with vowel sound. For example:

  • An M.A.
  • An M.Sc.
  • An M.B.B.S.
  • An M.L.A.
  • An N.C.C Officer
  • An M.Com.
  • An M.C.A
  • An M.B.A

Rule #4:

A or an must be used before a singular noun standing for things that can be counted. For example:

  • He was sitting in a chair.
  • She had a bottle in each hand.
  • Did you bring an umbrella?
  • I would like an apple.

Rule #4:

A or an must be used before the names of professions. For example:

  • She is a director.
  • Peter is an actor.

Rule #6:

Words like herogeniusfoolthief, and liar take the indefinite article. For example:

  • We all regarded him as a hero.
  • I suspect he is a thief.

Rule #7:

The following word has indefinite article. Such + a/an + noun (or) Such + a/an + adjective + noun. For example:

  • Such a policy
  • Such a long trip
  • Such a great teacher
  • Such an attractive woman

Rule #8:

The following word has indefinite article. so + adjective + a/an + noun. For example:

  • So boring a book
  • So beautiful an actress

Rule #9:

Few’ and ‘Little’ are negative meaning. ‘A few’ and ‘a little’ are positive and mean ‘some‘. For example:

  • He is young and has little experience of life.
  • Sweeten the mixture with a little honey.
  • He had few coppers in his pocket.
  • I went to spend a few days at the seaside.

Rule #10:

In its original numerical sense of one. For example:

  • Not a word was said.
  • Twelve inches make a foot.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • I have a novel with an intricate plot.

Rule #11:

A an = one thing or person. For example:

  • She works in a hospital.
  • There’s a problem with the drains.
  • I’ve got a puppy.
  • There was a girl sitting next to him.

Rule #12:

We use a an when we say what a thing or a person is. For example:

  • “Coca Cola” is a beverage.
  • Badminton is an indoor game.
  • A dog is a domestic animal.
  • Mary is a shy girl.

Rule #13:

We use a an for jobs, etc. For example:

  • She works as a nurse in a hospital.
  • John is a fireman.
  • I want to be a doctor.
  • She is a cashier in a bank.


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