How to Use “A” versus “An” in a Sentence
You probably think that “a” vs. “an” is a grammar rule you mastered long ago. But as it turns out, the concept is more complicated than you may think. The odds are that you’ve been using “an” in a sentence sometimes when you should have used “a” and vice versa.
“A” and “an” are indefinite articles, which are used to indicate how many of a certain noun you’re talking about. In other languages, such as Spanish, indefinite articles also indicate the gender of a noun. Luckily, in English, articles are much simpler. You only have four choices: “a,” “an,” “the” and “some.” “A” and “an” are used with singular nouns, and they are indefinite, meaning they don’t refer to a particular noun. This rule will not be applied when plural nouns or uncountable nouns are used, as they are determiners for singular nouns.
That is the job of “the,” English’s only definite article. The “a” in “a” and “an” keeps the same first letter in both cases, but can change depending on the following word in the sentence and the tenses used. This concept is a basic rule to the English language and English grammar and many other common languages as well. When people learn English, they often use this rule a lot in sentence creation. The rule of “a” vs “an” depends on the next word in the sentence.
When to Use “An” in a Sentence
You’re supposed to use “a” for words beginning with consonants and “an” for words that start with vowels, right? Well, not always. Here’s a surprise: both “a unicorn” and “an umbrella” are correct. The real rule is that you have to use “an” in a sentence when a word has a vowel sound at the beginning or in the first syllable, not just the first sound. For words with vowels at the beginning that sound like consonants, such as the “u” in unicorn, use “a” instead. “Silent h’s” can also be a struggle in learning this rule.
That is an alligator.
He rented an armadillo costume.
She sent her an invitation.
When an adjective comes between the indefinite article and the noun, make sure the article matches the sound of the adjective it proceeds. Use “an” with adjectives that begin with vowel sounds.
I bought an expensive raincoat.
Mosquitos make an irritating noise.
She earned an excellent score on the test.
Some words begin with consonants that are silent, like “hour,” and other words sound like they begin with a vowel when they really start with a consonant.
He was just asking an honest question.
She had to wait for an hour to see them.
They made an honest mistake.
Other times, you may be referring to just a singular letter or number. Make sure it matches with its indefinite article. Letters and numbers that sound like they start with a vowel should be proceeded by “an.”
Even though he studied, his final grade on the exam was an F.
Her handwriting was so sloppy, they couldn’t tell if she spelled her name with an M or an N.
When the group was playing Yahtzee, he rolled an eight.
When to Use “A” in a Sentence
The other indefinite article is "a." As a general rule, chose "a" when the word that comes after it sounds like it starts with a consonant, even if it's actually a vowel. Sometimes weird things like that happen. English is complicated.
Use “a” in front of singular nouns that begin with consonants. These nouns should also be countable, meaning there could be more than one in other situations.
She is a firefighter.
He uses a jump rope.
They saw a flower in the garden.
Indefinite articles have to match the sound of the word that comes after them, even if those words are adjectives that come between the article and its noun. Make sure you use “a” with adjectives that begin with consonant sounds.
It was a stupendous surprise.
He took a picture of a tall elephant.
She examined a scaly lizard under her magnifying glass.
Use “a” in front of words that start with vowels that sound like consonants. Such vowel examples include the “u” in “university” or the “E” in “European.”
She has a European Union passport.
They go to a university like ours.
The candy bar only costs a euro.
Use “a” before single letters and numbers that begin with consonant sounds, even if they are vowels or are spelled out with a vowel at the beginning.
He gave me a $1 bill.
She made a U-turn.
Sometimes, Both "A" and "An" Work
In some situations, “a” vs. “an” is a question of where you’re from, or, more specifically, your accent.
Americans and speakers of British English are sometimes separated by a common language. One case in point is this discrepancy with “herb” and “hospital.”
In British English, the “h” in “herb” is pronounced, but in most American English accents, the same “h” is silent.
So, in the UK, it would be acceptable to say: I ordered a herb salad.
But in the United States, most people would say: I made an herb vinaigrette.
The same is true for the word “hospital” and practically any other word that begins with a silent “h” in American English.
British English speakers would say: She works at an hospital.
But American English speakers would say: He was born in a hospital.
Sometimes, Neither "A" Nor "An" Works
Only use an indefinite article for countable nouns. There are some nouns that can’t be counted, at least according to grammarians. These nouns include air, advice, information, fun and salt.
Wrong: She gave me an advice.
Right: She gave me some advice.
Wrong: He breathed an air.
Right: He breathed the air.
Wrong: They asked for an information.
Right: They asked for information.
Vowels Vs. Consonants
You probably already know the basic differences between vowels and consonants. Vowel examples in English include a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. The rest of the letters in the alphabet are consonants. But do you know why they’re different?
It all has to do with the way your mouth and throat forms the sounds. When you pronounce vowels, your mouth and throat stay open, but consonants are formed by the different ways you stop or close that air passage with your teeth, tongue and lips.
The letter “y” is sometimes a vowel because your mouth treats it differently depending on the word. If you’re saying a word like “hymn,” the air passage stays open for the sound to come through. But if you’re saying a word like “yeoman,” your lips and tongue get involved, changing the airflow to make the “yuh” sound that starts off the word.
Other Grammar Rules to Watch Out For
Grammar can be much trickier than it looks because it seems like there are so many rules. But with a little knowledge and a lot of practice, you can become a grammar master and start being the one who corrects your friends.
Some of the most common grammar mistakes are just misspellings. Lean how to spell each word the right way, and your grammar will sparkle in no time.
Their, There, They’re: These three words mean three different things.
Use "their" if you mean something belongs to someone. Example: It's their house.
Use "there" when implying location. Example: It's that house over there.
Use "they're" to make a contraction of "they" and "are." Example: They're moving into the house across the street.
Your and You’re: Similar to the "their, there, they’re" problem, "your" and "you're" have two different functions.
"Your" is a possessive pronoun. Example: Is that your car?
"You're" is a contraction of "you" and "are." Example: You're the person driving us to school?
Its and It’s: These two words also have different functions.
"Its" is a possessive pronoun. Example: Let the dog chew on its toy.
"It's" is a contraction of "it" and "is." Example: Hurray! It's Christmas!
To and Too: Here is another instance of two words that sound alike but have separate meanings. Be careful: adding one letter or leaving it off can really confuse your reader.
"To" is a preposition. It can be directional or it can indicate time, among its numerous other uses. Example: We're going to the movies tonight.
"Too" is an adverb that can mean "also" or that something is in excess. Example: There is too much pepper on my potato salad. Example: Mine, too!
Me and I: This is one that might be tripping you up. You may have been told to use "she and I" instead of "she and me," but that advice could have led you astray. "She and I" is actually incorrect if you're using it in the predicate, or the end of the sentence that is being acted upon by the noun.
Wrong: She and me went to the party.
Right: She and I went to the party.
Wrong: He went to the party with Lucy and I.
Right: He went to the party with Lucy and me.
When in doubt, you can replace the offending word with another you know is right.
Right: He went to the party with us.
You can also take out the other person to see if the sentence sounds right with "me" or "I"
Wrong: He went to the party with I.
Right: He went to the party with me.
“Alot” and “a lot”: This is just a standard misspelling. "A lot" is two words, meaning there is a great quantity of something.
Wrong: I love you alot.
Right: I love you a lot.
Loose and Lose: Another common misspelling, "loose" and "lose" have unrelated meanings. "Loose" is an adjective, meaning something it baggy or not tight. "Lose" is a verb that means to misplace or be defeated.
Wrong: My pants are too lose.
Right: My pants are too loose.
Wrong: A zebra escaped from the zoo, and now it's on the lose.
Right: A zebra escaped from the zoo, and now it's on the loose.
Then and Than: "Then" and "than" may sound very similar, but they are different parts of speech with dissimilar functions.
"Than" is usually used in comparisons. Example: My turtle runs faster than your snail.
"Then" tends to indicate time or subsequent action. Example: I ate breakfast, and then I went to school.
Less and Fewer: Only brainiacs know this one. Both of these words are used for comparisons, but do you know when to use which?
Use "less" when you're talking about something collective or something that can be in a mass. Example: There is less sand in my shoes than in my shorts.
Use "fewer" when you're describing something that can be numbered. Example: I ate fewer cookies than my brother did.
Who and Whom: This one frequently trips up grammar novices. Both words replace nouns, but when should you use them?
"Whom" is always going to be the object of a very or preposition. If you want to use "whom," try replacing the word with "him" or "her." If it fits, "whom" is the correct word to use. If it doesn't, go with "who."
Wrong: Whom ate my sandwich?
Right: Who ate my sandwich?
Wrong: To who did you send that postcard?
Right: To whom did you send that postcard?
When to use an Vs a in a sentence? ›
A and an are two different forms of the same word: the indefinite article a that is used before noun phrases. Use a when the noun or adjective that comes next begins with a consonant sound. Use an when the noun or adjective that comes next begins with a vowel sound.How do you use a and an in a sentence example? ›
- "My daughter really wants a dog for Christmas." This refers to any dog. ...
- "Somebody call a policeman!" This refers to any policeman. ...
- "When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!" Here, we're talking about a single, non-specific thing, in this case an elephant.
Adverb I couldn't run fast enough to catch up with her. She's old enough to know better. Are you rich enough to retire? That's good enough for me.What are the 10 examples of article an? ›
- She's having an umbrella.
- She's an introvert.
- He's not an extrovert.
- I'm eating an apple.
- She's eating an egg daily.
- She's going to fly an aeroplane.
- An elephant is such a huge animal.
- She's not eating an orange.
Nouns that start with a consonant use a. There are also some nouns, however, that begin with a vowel, but where a is used as an exception. This is because the noun starts with the consonant-like sound- “you”. That means that they are treated like a noun that starts with a consonant.Is it a apple or an apple? ›
With words such as 'umbrella', 'ice cream' and 'apple' you have to use “an umbrella”, “an ice cream” and “an apple”.What are 5 sentences examples? ›
5 sentences: The police department in my town is just around the corner from my house. Every summer I try to find the biggest tree around to climb. My mom always complains that my socks stink after I get home from camp.How do you use enough is enough in a sentence? ›
I have to say firmly that enough is enough. After seven years of membership, enough is enough. What emergency measures does he have to prevent the prison officers and the prisoners deciding to say, as they will soon, enough is enough? They are all saying the same thing: enough is enough.What is a simple sentence with article A and an? ›
"I want an apple." In the sentence above we find the article "an." It shows us that the speaker does not want a specific apple. He can have any apple. "I want the red apple."What is an example of article AN? ›
Among the indefinite articles, 'an' is used before singular nouns that start with vowel sounds and 'a' is used before singular nouns that begin with consonant sounds. For example: I had an apple for breakfast.
What are the 20 sentences? ›
- I go to the President's House.
- Sun rises in the East.
- He takes a bath once a month.
- She takes selfies.
- They take the bribe.
- We speak lie.
- It rains every day in Assam.
- You eat Pizza every weekend.
Use a before nouns that begin with a consonant sound, and use an before nouns that begin with a vowel sound. Use the article a or an to indicate any non-specified member of a group or category.Is it a Umbrella or an Umbrella? ›
“Hour” begins with a consonant, but the “h” is silent. The first sound that is pronounced is a vowel, so “an” is used. “Umbrella” begins with a vowel sound, but the adjective “blue” appears between “umbrella” and the indefinite article, and “blue” begins with a consonant sound. For that reason, “a” is used.Is it an hour or an hour? ›
A and an are different forms of the indefinite article. Words where the “h” is silent, such as honor or honest, use “an” instead of “a.” Since the “h” in “hour” is silent, it is “an hour” instead of “a hour.”Is it a or an monkey? ›
A monkey is an animal with a long tail which lives in hot countries and climbs trees.Is it a or an elephant? ›
1 Answer. An Elephant. Any time a word starts with a vowel, (A, E, I, O, U) then its An, if the word starts with a continent, then it is A.Is it a or an banana? ›
We use indefinite articles for a non-specific singular noun: a banana.What is a 50 word sentence? ›
How Many Sentences Is 50 Words? 50 words is about 2-4 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.What is a sentence answer? ›
A sentence is a grammatically complete idea. All sentences have a noun or pronoun component called the subject, and a verb part called the predicate.What is the 5 sentence rule? ›
"Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness," says successful serial entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (Nononina Press, 2013). "Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time," he says.
What is a 100 word sentence? ›
The prompt: A sentence with 100 words. Begin with a simple sentence, then add details, descriptions and modifiers to create a complex, detailed sentence.What are 100 simple sentences? ›
- I am appointed as an officer.
- You have to link it.
- She allow you to work.
- They ensure for fair benefits.
- He disposes the glass.
- We punished by teacher.
- Baby follow her mother steps.
- In history resolution is major event.
Enough is a word that signifies a sufficient quantity or a sufficient degree. It can be used either as an adjective, or as a pronoun, or as an adverb..Why is enough an adverb? ›
Enough is an adjective that describes something that is adequate for an intended purpose. Enough is also used as an adverb to mean sufficiently or fully. Enough also has senses as a pronoun and an interjection. Enough describes something as being adequate or sufficient.Is enough singular or plural? ›
Enough is used in front of the plural form of a countable noun to say that there are as many things or people as are needed. They need to make sure there are enough bedrooms for the family. Do we have enough chairs?What are the 5 examples of article an? ›
- A dog is man's best friend.
- An apple a day, keeps doctor away.
- It was an urgent requirement.
Eleven is plural. So, we do not use 'an' with eleven. But if eleven is used as adjective to a singular noun, 'an' is used before it. An Eleven-storied building - Here, though it is eleven storied, it is only 'one' building.Where is the article A is used? ›
The is used to describe a specific noun, whereas a/an is used to describe a more general noun. For this reason, the is also referred to as a definite article, and a/an is referred to as an indefinite article. The definite article, the, is used before both singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific.What are the 10 uses of definite article? ›
- Before a Noun. ...
- When Nouns Are Already Known to the User. ...
- Before Unique Nouns. ...
- Superlative Adjectives. ...
- Before Adjectives Used as Nouns. ...
- Proper Nouns. ...
- With Nationalities. ...
- Mentions of Services or Systems.
How Many Sentences Is 100 Words? 100 words is about 5-7 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.
Who make 5 sentences? ›
[M] [T] I wonder who started that rumor. [M] [T] Do you know who wrote this novel? [M] [T] She is the one who feeds our dog. [M] [T] Who do you think will come first?How many sentences is 300 words? ›
How Many Sentences Is 300 Words? 300 words is about 15-20 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.What is the use of article A AN? ›
Use a before nouns that begin with a consonant sound, and use an before nouns that begin with a vowel sound. Use the article a or an to indicate any non-specified member of a group or category.What are the 8 types of articles? ›
- Data-backed Articles. One of my favorite forms of content is the data-driven article. ...
- Lists. List-backed articles are one of the most popular and enduring types of content. ...
- Reports. ...
- Lengthy posts. ...
- Argumentation. ...
- Responses. ...
- Research. ...
- Technical How-Tos.
- Original Research Articles. ...
- Theoretical Articles. ...
- Descriptions of Research Methodology. ...
- Reports and Studies of Observations. ...
- Notes and News. ...
- Reviews. ...
- Authoritative Opinions. ...
- Educational Material.