Which indefinite article should precede houra or an?

  • an hour
  • a hour

Does the usage of an vs a depend on the pronunciation — a history, a hobby, but an hour, an honor?


Does the usage of an vs a depends on the pronunciation: a history, a hobby, but an hour, an honor.

Yes. If a word begins with a vowel sound, then the correct article is an; otherwise, if it begins with a consonantal sound, the correct article is a.

Because hour is typically pronounced with a silent h, an hour is correct.

I wrote a blog post about an vs a on the EL&U blog some time ago, and it covers a wide variety of other cases that you might be interested in.


An hour is correct, because "hour" begins with a vowel sound. A vs. an depends on pronunciation, not spelling.

Some notable cases:

  • A/an NIC (network interface card)--proper spelling depends on prounuciation... "A nick" vs. "an N-I-C"
  • A/an herb. "An erb" in most regions. "a herb" (with pronounced H) in some
  • 1
    Have you got a reference for saying that 'erb' is more common than 'herb'? :) – curiousdannii Sep 27 '14 at 7:10
  • 1
    @curiousdannii: dictionary.reference.com/browse/herb – Flimzy Sep 27 '14 at 8:23
  • According to Wiktionary "US pronunciation of the word varies; some speakers include the h-sound and others omit it, with the h-less pronunciation being the more common. Individual speakers are consistent in their choice, but the choice does not appear to be correlated with any regional, socioeconomic, or educational distinctions." This is surprising! I'm still not sure if "most regions" is accurate, but it doesn't matter. – curiousdannii Sep 28 '14 at 5:12
  • +1 for erb, herb I did not know that! :) – Maulik V Jul 25 '18 at 5:25

You are correct in your assumption. The usage does depend on the pronunciation. If the subsequent word starts with a vowel sound, then the previous word must be an. If the word starts with a consonant sound, then the previous word is a.

protected by Community Sep 26 '18 at 8:56

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