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In a book I saw this statement.

Before words beginning with h and not accented on the first syllable, an is often used ; as,

An historical , an hotel.

I want to know whether h in hotel is pronounced or not. I would be really grateful if someone can explain this more.

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  • Some (specifically, Jeremy Paxman) ridiculously pedantic Brits (not Americans, I don't think) still say an historic occasion, but that's about the only case where it's even remotely "correct" to use an before a word starting with aspirated /h/. Americans don't always pronounce the /h/ in herb, so they might refer to an herb where Brits would say a herb. – FumbleFingers Apr 30 at 17:23
  • I don't know about 'pedantic' - what if it's how you were brought up? It's awfully hard to break some of these habits. I hope you wouldn't call a Cockney/Estuary person 'common' or 'sloppy' for saying 'I wear an 'at when it's cold'. – Michael Harvey Apr 30 at 17:56
  • I do not think an historic event is pedantic. the an comes out as un, anyway. – Lambie Apr 30 at 18:06
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Pronouncing the 'h' in 'hotel is a choice. In modern times in the UK, 'hotel' is very often pronounced with the 'h' sounded, so that the correct preceding indefinite article is 'a'. However, older people, especially of the middle and upper classes, may be used to pronouncing the word with a silent 'h', and thus would use 'an' before. This was common in the 18th and 19th centuries. Another word of this type is 'historic'. This dropped 'h' is not to be confused with the working-class or Cockney 'h' dropped from most words starting with that letter, very common in the UK.

A hotel or an hotel

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  • It's because hotel was originally thought of as a French loanword and therefore pronounced with a silent 'h' as in French. (The older borrowings hostel and hostelry always have the 'h' sounded.) – Kate Bunting May 1 at 8:26
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In American English, the h in hotel, historian, etc. is pronounced. Silent initial 'h' is not a feature the way it is in some dialects of British English, though there are a few words that have it. The debate over a/an before pronounced h has pretty firmly settled on a, and not an. It would strike me as old-fashioned and pretentious for someone to use "an historian," and just plain wrong for someone to use "an hotel."

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  • I say both, and although I am possibly a bit old-fashioned, I am not in the least 'pretentious'. Just a middle-class English person born in 1952. – Michael Harvey Apr 30 at 16:57
  • @MichaelHarvey, I'm sure that's true! My comment is about an American context, where the only people I've heard using "an historian" are self-aggrandizing history professors. – Katy Apr 30 at 22:58

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