I am getting confused while using an article an. Because an is used while referring to vowels (a,e,i,o,u).

But today I read an article where for user they used a user.

My question is, why was an not used?

Could someone explain this with an example?

  • 12
    It's based on vowel sounds, not vowel letters.
    – user230
    Jun 26, 2014 at 13:48
  • 1
    @snailplane - exactly! This should be an answer. This is why you get 'a user', but 'an hour'.
    – michelle
    Jun 26, 2014 at 13:51
  • 3
    @Stephen Welcome to ELL. It's based on sounds as snailplane suggested above. Please find more information in the link I suggested above. See also: english.blogoverflow.com/2011/11/articles-a-vs-an, ell.stackexchange.com/q/6760/3281. Jun 26, 2014 at 13:59
  • 1
    To those who are voting to close this question as a duplicate of the "an hour" question: I think this question is sufficiently distinct. For one, it's in the opposite sense. Furthermore, an English learner may not be aware that the pronunciation of "user" starts with a /j/ sound. (In fact, in some obscure legal usage, it doesn't!) Jun 26, 2014 at 16:14
  • 1
    @snailplane Thank you for your answer.firstly you are the one answered me in comment.But It could be good if you post as an answer.
    – Stephen
    Jun 26, 2014 at 16:43

1 Answer 1


The choice of a or an is made based on pronunciation, not spelling. The only reason the word an exists is because a followed by another vowel is awkward to pronounce.

Since user is pronounced /ˈjuːzə/, starting with a consonant "y" sound, the article a is appropriate, and an is not.

  • 4
    Correct, but the second sentence is misleading: it may suggest to those who don't know the history that the n is intrusive, where in fact the form with n is older. Jun 26, 2014 at 14:51
  • 1
    nice explanation.now I understood it clearly.Thank you:)
    – Stephen
    Jun 26, 2014 at 16:39

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