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I was wondering if "An" should be used with obligatory or "A". I understand that since obligatory begins with a vowel I should use "An" but I see people are using "A" more frequently than "An"

To me "A obligatory like" sounds right, as in "a Facebook like".

Also .. Is "and a obligatory comment" correct or is it "and an obligatory comment" ?

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  • In what situations have you seen or heard this? It sounds most unnatural to me.
    – tunny
    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:13
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    You see people use "a" more often than "an". I dare say that many, if not most, people see "an" used more often. As @tunny says, where do you see people use "a"? Don't forget that this "rule" about using "an" is not something someone made up; it's something people do because it is easier to pronounce it that way. That is why native speakers will find the difficult way, a obligatory most unnatural: it is too hard to say!
    – oerkelens
    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:24
  • google.co.in/… Normally I do a google search when I am confused and I found a lot of websites using A obligatory stop so I assumed it is correct.
    – Aditya
    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:32
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    Google is a most unreliable guide when it comes to the question of correctness of language. Try using the British National Corpus, The Corpus of Contemporary American Usage, The Corpus of Global Web-Based English or Google books Ngram Viewer.
    – tunny
    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:42
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    If you use google like this, a tip: do a search on "an obligatory" (619,000 results) versus "a obligatory" (53,000 results): mind the quotation marks and you'll see more reliable result. Also not that in the top results, "an" includes dictionaries and the like, whereas "a" yields top results from tripadvisor and similar sites where you find many non-natives leaving comments.
    – oerkelens
    Nov 14, 2014 at 9:07

3 Answers 3

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To me only "an obligatory" sounds right. "a obligatory" is not only more difficult to pronounce but also sounds pretty odd (to me at least). Google ngram seems to agree with me:

Google Ngram

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  • I agree. Sometimes one uses "an" even if the following word begins with a consonant, such as in "An honest mistake." Note that the reverse can also be true, as in "He gave a eulogy at the wake." The pronunciation is key. Nov 14, 2014 at 8:26
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    @user1473511. Honest does not begin with a consonant sound. Eulogy begins with the sound /j/, which is felt to be a consonant when it is at the beginning of a word.
    – tunny
    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:38
  • Nice way to find the answer
    – Disposer
    Nov 14, 2014 at 8:43
  • -1 I don't think people are going to write a obligatory. But many people use a obligatory when speaking, just as a apple and so forth. What does an ngram have anything to do with choice of indefinite article for pronunciation!!!!??
    – user6951
    Nov 14, 2014 at 19:12
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I think an important point is that you "see" this but it "sounds ... unnatural".

The pronoun was invented for pronunciation. It prevents the speaker from having to separate the vowels.

Since it is not necessary to speak while typing, I suggest that "a obligatory" is an Internet artifact.

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    I think you mean article, not pronoun Nov 14, 2014 at 20:18
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The indefinite article "a" changes to "an" when used before a word that begins with a, e, i, o, or short u, ignoring any silent consonants.

Use "a" for long u, whether it's spelled "eu" or just with a "u."

Only use "an" for words that begin with "y" if it's with an initial "y" that sounds like a short i. Words like this are very rare, nonetheless, listen to this example. (an ytterbium element)

Use "a" for w and phrases beginning with one/once

an honest mistake

a universal trait

an ugly duckling

a euphoric feeling

a one-time pad

an only child

a yes-man

an iatrophoic person

an idiot

a wish upon a star

So, an obligatory ... etc.

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