I just wrote down a sentence like this

This is __ (infinite) subset.

Should I use a or an here? Do I consider what's in the parenthesis when choosing the article?


1 Answer 1


You should usually consider what is in the brackets, if it is part of the text. In this case "infinite" is part of the text and you would use "an".

Imagine you are reading the text to someone. Would you speak the words in the brackets? if so then you should consider the sound of those words.

It is hard to imagine situation where you wouldn't use "an". Here is an artificial one. You need to provide a reference for there being only one so you put the citation after the word "a". You wouldn't read the citation text if speaking a paper out loud.

This is a (Elmer, 2017) subset.

However, don't do that. It looks horrible and you don't need to put the citation there.

You don't really need to use brackets around "infinite". If it is useful I would just include it. If it is truly parenthetical then you should consider just removing it.

  • Thanks for the answer. Let me just give you a little more context: I am writing a proposition, at the end of which I write "this is an (infinite) subset". The "infinite" part is not proven yet but I believe the reader should know, hence I put it in the brackets. Should I use "an" in this case? Also, can you provide an example where "a" is used instead?
    – trisct
    Aug 18, 2019 at 9:38
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    If it is not proven then the reader doesn't know. I suppose you could say "This is a subset, which we shall later prove to be infinite" or "... that it is an infinite subset is left as an exercise to the reader" or something. Is the fact that it is infinite important? If so no brackets. Not important? Then cut it out.
    – James K
    Aug 18, 2019 at 9:55
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    I fondly remember a 7th-grade teacher employing the maxim (at least with me, since I was—and, clearly, still am—prone to parentheticals and other asides) that “if it is important enough to include at all, it’s important enough to include outside parentheses.”
    – KRyan
    Aug 18, 2019 at 20:29

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