Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 34
  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Vancouver, BC
    Posts
    212
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    0

    Question "A" vs. "An" question

    A colleague and I are in disagreement. Please help.

    Should it be a historical event or an historical event? Does it make a difference if it's Canadian English?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Posts
    3,486
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    0
    I say "a historical" event - although some people think the "h" is silent, and therefore say "an historical event." I think both are correct.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Age
    28
    Posts
    11,834
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    0
    'An historical event' sounds more right to me.

    But, 'a historical event' is probably correct.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Singleville aka 7th Circle of Hell
    Age
    34
    Posts
    12,384
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    11344
    An historical event is right, but it sounds stilted, like it's part of a conspiracy to make us all sound like English bulters. Probably the same people that thought up the word "whom."
    "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter

  5. #5
    Hey, Kool-Aid!
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Posts
    11,182
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    2492
    I was taught "an" when the "h" makes the sound it does in words like historical.
    Tessa and Scott: Thank you

  6. #6
    Bountifully Enmeshed
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    At the Christmas Bizarre
    Posts
    38,161
    vCash
    250
    Rep Power
    46687
    It depends. Traditionally, British and often Canadian speakers did not aspirate the h, ('istorical) and so used an. Americans generally did aspirate the h (hissssssstorical) and so used a.

    But according to the CBC, the use of an is dying in both Canada and the UK, as more people aspirate the h at the beginning of words

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/indepth/words/ananda.html
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

  7. #7
    Hey, Kool-Aid!
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Posts
    11,182
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    2492
    I guess that shows my age. Interesting article though but I was surprised to read most North Americans drop the "h" in "herbs". I don't know that I've ever heard it said that way over here (aside from French Canadians who wouldn't know an "h" if it hit them in the face xo)
    Tessa and Scott: Thank you

  8. #8
    Bountifully Enmeshed
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    At the Christmas Bizarre
    Posts
    38,161
    vCash
    250
    Rep Power
    46687
    Quote Originally Posted by marbri View Post
    I guess that shows my age. Interesting article though but I was surprised to read most North Americans drop the "h" in "herbs".
    I've never heard hhhhhhherb; it's always 'erb.
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

  9. #9
    gold dust woman
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Olympia, WA
    Age
    35
    Posts
    4,059
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    0
    Pretty much what Prancer said--if the "h" is silent, use "an." If it's not, use "a."

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    City of Blinding Light
    Posts
    15,915
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    12302
    It's 'erb where I grew up near Boston. And oddly enough, get this - it's "hhhhistorical" with the H, but it's "an 'istorical event."

    I've just tested a bunch of my friends from home, and they all do this, as do I and my husband.
    Use Yah Blinkah!

  11. #11
    Bountifully Enmeshed
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Location
    At the Christmas Bizarre
    Posts
    38,161
    vCash
    250
    Rep Power
    46687
    This was always a tricky one when I was editing, because no matter which way you write it, there are people who will consider it wrong. And it will all depend on how they pronounce the words, so there is no way to whack them over the head with some rule you pull out of a book and declare to be LAW.

    The end result of this for me is that both versions sound wrong.
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

  12. #12

    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    out of the recliner at last
    Age
    50
    Posts
    8,841
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    15480
    As for the herb thing--does anyone remember the Night Court episode where (at the end of the show) the punch line was "That isn't herb tea--that's HERB!"

    "Me, cutie/chicken, the egg cup, I am the hammer of my spoon!"--Jen_Faith translation

  13. #13

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Age
    48
    Posts
    17,938
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    34819
    That is a tough one. I thought you could have used both and they would both sound correct.

    Someone here at work thought that you use "an" when the next word starts with vowel.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

  14. #14

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Some place competitive and athletic, but ultimately more like an audition than anything else.
    Posts
    7,797
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    19516
    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Willy View Post
    Someone here at work thought that you use "an" when the next word starts with vowel.
    I was taught this also, that the rule is based on the way the words are written.

    However, I later learned by way of studying other languages that such rules are based on how the words sound when properly spoken, and came into existence to maintain the continuity of the rhythm of the spoken form as sounded by native speakers (usually of high social status).

  15. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    1,520
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    0
    I do not understand why anyone other than a Cockney would ever use the article "an" before "historic" or "historical." No one would say "an History student," "an hiss," "an hysterical reaction," "an Hispanic," or "an hysterectomy." So why would "an historical novel" ever be correct?

  16. #16
    drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    c'est genifique!
    Posts
    29,978
    vCash
    325
    Rep Power
    38422
    Writing, I would use a instead of an...but when I speak it, I would say a history...but an historical. Just based on how it sounds.

    The only person I've ever heard to aspirate the h in herbs is a Brit, BTW
    Q: Why can't I read the competition threads?
    A: Competition forums on the board are available to those with a Season Pass or a premium membership How to View Kiss & Cry

  17. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Dashing Between Bennetton and Krispy Kreme
    Posts
    2,454
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    0
    In 'artford, 'ererford, and 'ampshire, 'urricanes' 'ardly HEVER 'appen.

  18. #18

    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    3,195
    vCash
    400
    Rep Power
    33486
    I thought there was some archaic rule about an "h" being a form of semi vowel that meant "an" was correct before anything beginning with an "h" whether you pronounce the "h" or not.

    I've certainly heard presenters talk about "an historic event" rather than "an 'istoric event".

    I've never really understood why Americans say 'erb or 'erbal, especially since most people i've heard do it would have a cup of hot 'erbal tea at their hotel - and only drop the 'h' in herbal?

    Another pronunciation thing that always surprised me is that the name Graham or Graeme seems to be pronounced like gramme as opposed to the British pronunciation of it as two syllables (gray-am).

    Ant

  19. #19
    Prick Admin
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Having a kiki
    Posts
    42,404
    vCash
    506
    Rep Power
    25736
    I always use "an" for "an historical event".

    And pronounce the "h" in "herb". I 'ate, 'ate the dropping of the "h".
    To think that fun is simple fun, while earnest things are earnest, proves all too plain that neither one thou truthfully discernest.

  20. #20

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Some place competitive and athletic, but ultimately more like an audition than anything else.
    Posts
    7,797
    vCash
    500
    Rep Power
    19516
    Wikipedia: Discrimination between a and an

    The choice of "a" or "an" is determined by phonetic rules rather than by spelling convention. "An" is employed in speech to remove the awkward glottal stop (momentary silent pause) that is otherwise required between "a" and a following word. For example, "an X-ray" is less awkward to pronounce than "a X-ray," which has a glottal stop between "a" and "X-ray".
    The form "an" is always prescribed before words beginning with a silent h, such as "honorable", "heir", "hour", and, in American English, "herb".[9] Some British dialects (for example, Cockney) silence all initial h's (h-dropping) and so employ "an" all the time: e.g., "an 'elmet". Many British usage books, therefore, discount a usage which some Americans (amongst others) employ as being a derivative of the Cockney.
    Words that may have had a route into English via French (where all hs are unpronounced) may have an to avoid an unusual pronunciation. Words that derived from German however would use a as the hs would be pronounced. There is even some suggestion that fashion may have had some influence. When England was ruled by a French aristocracy, the tradition may have been to exclusively use an, while when Britain was governed by a German-based monarchy the tide may have changed to a.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •