LESSON WRITING "A" and "An" -- Mistakes You Might Be Making

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by DinoFeather, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. Take a look at the sentence below and see if you can find the error.
    "Would you like to join a RP?"

    Did you find it?

    If not, you are not alone. The more forums I visit, the more I see people struggling with indefinite articles. Thus, I decided to make a guide that will hopefully assist writers with correct usage.

    Indefinite Articles

    What in the world is an indefinite article?
    These little guys sound a lot more complex than they are. Simply put, indefinite articles (in English) are a and an.

    But let's take a closer look at what an indefinite article is: an indefinite article is exactly that-- indefinite. These tiny little words are used before a singular noun that possesses a plural form. (e.g. a horse, an apple, etc.) They are "indefinite" because they do not refer to a particular noun. If you were to say, "I'm looking for an inn," an indicates that any inn will work.

    If you were to instead say, "I'm looking for the inn," the indicates that you are looking for a particular inn. The is a definite article because it refers to something specific.

    A vs. An
    You probably remember your teachers in primary school telling you that a goes with consonants and an goes with vowels. It's a fine rule of thumb, but writing these words can make them a bit tricky. To determine which indefinite article you should use, you need to consider the sound of the word instead of how it is written. Confused? Let me show you a few examples:

    A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

    Did you seen an elephant at the zoo?

    That all seems pretty straightforward because "quick" starts with a consonant letter and a consonant sound, while "elephant" starts with a vowel and a vowel sound.

    But what happens when you have something like:

    Is there a user guide?

    How would you feel about writing a eulogy?

    Did you have to get an x-ray?

    Both "user" and "eulogy" begin with a vowel, so many people would be tempted to use an instead of a. Why is that incorrect? Because, despite the first letter being a vowel, "user" and "eulogy" begin with a consonant sound. "X-ray," on the other hand, starts with a consonant that has a vowel sound (ex), so an is used.

    Try saying those sentences aloud-- once with a and once with an. Which one is easier to pronounce? Starting to make sense?

    Let's try one more thing:

    Would you like to join an RP?

    Before you protest and point out that "RP" is an acronym, listen to how it sounds when you say it. Even though "RP" begins with a consonant letter, when it is pronounced in the acronym it has the vowel sound (are/arr - like a pirate). Now do you see that error up at the very top? c;

    Quick Tips
    If you are ever in doubt over which you should use, listen to the word that comes directly after it!

    If it begins with a vowel sound, use an.

    If it begins with a consonant sound, use a.

    If you are still unsure, Google it!

    Thanks for reading!

    If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions feel free to post them below.

    Happy writing!
    #1 DinoFeather, Dec 28, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017
    • Useful Useful x 3
    • Thank Thank x 1
  2. Oh my God thank you :D I always had that same confusion :x but now I know better :3
    • Thank Thank x 1
  3. Woo! This is great, thanks!
    • Like Like x 1