Saturday, July 27, 2013

Indefinite articles - a or an?

A quick quiz to test your understanding of when to use a and when to use an as the indefinite article. Do the quiz before you read the notes which follow it.

Articles - a or an

Add the appropriate indefinite article before each word

apple book orange
one-pound coin onion union
umpire university UN official
Member of Parliament MP European country
EU commissioner FBI agent hour
hair history book herb (UK)
honest man heir horse
hotel HGV licence horrific accident
historic event honour LPG container

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Anonymous said...

As I expected, I got ‘historic event’ and ‘horrific accident’ wrong. I precede both with ‘an’, and I have often heard ‘an historic’ on the BBC. In both words the stress falls on the second syllable, and, although the ‘h’ is pronounced it is quickly passed over. I posted on this myself a couple of years ago:

Warsaw Will said...

Hi, Barrie - we won't say 'wrong', I don't think either of us like that word. I also posted about it some time ago, when I wrote "The consensus of expert opinion seems to be that while 'a historic ...' is more logical, as most of us pronounce the initial 'h', there are enough 'sophisticated' speakers who say 'an historic ...' for both to be allowable." Perhaps I was being too black and white, should have checked back to what I'd written before. I'll add something to that effect in the notes.

Peter Harvey said...

Irish Catholics say haitch. It is a shibboleth.

Warsaw Will said...

Irish I understand, but I'm intrigued at the religious angle. More importantly for this blog, which is mainly for foreign learners, and as you yourself are a teacher, how would you advise your students, who are learning standard English?

I'm thinking of what you've said elsewhere about split infinitives, which are also a shibboleth.

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