The word "a" has two pronunciations: (aa) when the mouth is widely opened and (ei) when the mouth is not wide open. I just want to know the difference between them.

People have asked questions like this before but I have not studied "pronunciation symbols" like /ə/ so I did not understand the answers.


3 Answers 3


The usual pronunciation for the indefinite article "a" is ə (schwa), which is the "aa" sound (like the first letter in "adorable").

The letter "a", however, is pronounced eɪ - "ey" as in "day".

It's rare to hear the article-a pronounced as eɪ - it usually indicates emphasis, like in "Sure, Samsung Galaxy is a (eɪ) smartphone, but iPhone is The Smartphone", when you want to emphasize that iPhone is somehow the iconic example of a smartphone.

  • 3
    translate.google.com/#en/it/…. Press the Play icon if you have headphones to listen.
    – TimR
    Oct 5, 2014 at 21:26
  • One problem I have encountered while trying to teach English to people is emphasizing the "a" just makes them more confused. Just making the normal "a" sound louder might be more appropriate some times. Oct 6, 2014 at 3:50
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    Note that there are regional variations. I find myself pronouncing the article both ways described above, but have no idea what causes me to select one versus the other.
    – keshlam
    Oct 6, 2014 at 4:44
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    @TimRomano, your palindrome is a bit off. Add a canal! :)
    – Honoki
    Oct 6, 2014 at 10:36
  • LOL. The Google lady doesn't seem too excited by the canal: translate.google.com/#en/it/…
    – TimR
    Oct 6, 2014 at 13:42

In recent years the pronunciation of a as "ay" (as in day) has become almost commonplace among Tory politicians and has now spread like a contagious disease to other parties and to the broadcasting media. I have even heard a politician using the word another and pronouncing it aynother. As a consequence, the use of the ay pronunciation occasionally for emphasis is in danger of being lost.


Beyond the "Ay" being used in an analogous way as when we use "thee" for "the" it is used in other ways:

It is used when it is the beginning of a title of a book, movie, play, poem or whatever: A Midsummer Night's Dream; A Christmas Carol, etc.

There are some I don't understand the pattern of, but they sound right: A dozen eggs (I have heard that it is when you are emphasizing the "one" meaning)

A once great nation (could be because of the grouping of people that makes a nation, but it might be for reverence)

A Mrs. Reynolds called last evening. (The speaker is relaying the message but does not know Mrs. Reynolds.)

I think it is more common in warnings or dangers when you are emphasizing the uniqueness of a situation or the adjective preceding the noun. And it is used as a mild expletive or rather a subtle suggestion that one might easily have been inserted: This is quite a predicament!; You are walking a very fine line buddy!; Watch yourself! There is a very big dog on Harold's farm.; We were on the path, when a frightening wombat lunged at Vivian.; Keep your eyes open! There is a crack shot sniper that favors that hill.

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    You don't have to pronounce a as "ay" in any of your examples. It is optional, not required.
    – sumelic
    Apr 12, 2019 at 23:16

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