The Indefinite Article

Unlike the Definite Article The, A and AN refer to someone or something whose precise identity is not specified. And, although they are among the most common words in the English language, confusion still arises as to which should be used when. So here’s a reminder.

A is used:
(i) before all consonants: a woman, a tree, a rock.
(ii) before an aspirated h: a horse, a hero, a humorist.
(iii) before the letter u when sounded like ‘you’: a unit, a use, a union.
(iv) before a diphthong eu: a European, a eulogy.
(v) before words beginning with y: a year, a yellow balloon, a youth.

AN is used:
(i) before a vowel sound: an animal, an example, an umbrella.
(ii) before a mute h: an hour, an honest woman, an historian.

See, it’s as clear as mud. Now, I wonder who is going to be first to ask me, is a diphthong the same as a bikini thong? Hmm…


  1. I love that mental picture of a dipthong and a bikini thong, Alex… And I do like these reminders of how to use standard English. They’re always useful.

    • La Blonde says

      Glad to see you appreciate my weird sense of humour, Margot. It was a joke for my creative writing students, so they would also remember. 😀

  2. I learn so much from each visit to your blog. I didn’t even know the word dipthong existed! I had to google it. Haha! It was underlined red when I was typing this!

    You are now officially my grammar guru. Say, can you help me with the following?

    Which one is correct?
    1. There’s no rules
    2. There’re no rules

    • La Blonde says

      Ooo, an ‘official’ grammar guru! I’ve got a lot to live up to now. Ha! Ha!

      And I’m happy to hear these little quick primers are of value and help to you, Veronica. It’s nice to see people able to use them. I’m glad I made you laugh with my diphthong joke too. 😀

      As to your question: Both are correct but in different circumstances. There are twelve of us, but there is only one bedroom, which we all share!

      Does that help?

    • La Blonde says

      Oh, you are more thank welcome, Veronica!

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