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:

an + vowel sound

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

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. Look at these examples:

vowel letter but consonant sound
a European country you-ro-pe-an
a one-day conference won-day
a university you-ni-ver-si-ty
consonant letter but vowel sound
an honest man on-est
an hour our
an FBI agent eff-bee-eye

See also Linking