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I've encountered this quite a few times now. I'm aware that usually words, starting with a vowel require an "an", words not starting with a vowel are preceded by an "a".

Sometimes words start with a consonant, but when spoken out loud, it sounds like a vowel, for instance an hour.

Is the use of "an" in this case correct due to the sound it would make when spoke out loud?

marked as duplicate by StoneyB, Nathan Tuggy, ColleenV, user3169, David Richerby Apr 6 '16 at 1:44

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Here is the rule:

Use AN before words such as "hour" which sound like they start with a vowel even if the first letter is a consonant. Also use AN before letters and numbers which sound like they begin with a vowel, such as "F" or "8". Remember, it is the sound not the spelling which is important. For example, "F" is pronounced "eff" like it starts with an "E".

Examples:

I only have an hour for lunch. Sounds like "au-er".

Does his name begin with an "F"? Sounds like "eff"

Use A before words such as "European" or "university" which sound like they start with a consonant even if the first letter is a vowel. Also use A before letters and numbers which sound like they begin with a consonant, such as "U", "J", "1" or "9". Remember, it is the sound not the spelling which is important. For example, "1" is spelled O-N-E; however, it is pronounced "won" like it starts with a "W".

Examples:

She has a euro. Sounds like "yu-ro".

That number is a "1". Sounds like "won".

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    Which consonant "European" start sounds like? – Joao Arruda Apr 5 '16 at 14:55
  • @JoaoArruda "European" sounds like it starts with the consonant sound of a "y". – Catija Apr 5 '16 at 14:58
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    @JoaoArruda "Y", like "Your". (For added confusion, "Y" is sometimes a vowel... but not here.) – T.J.L. Apr 5 '16 at 14:58
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    There's a childish joke that it sounds like "Your a-peein'". – Justin Young Apr 5 '16 at 17:32
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    That should be "you're"...bad native speaker...shame on me. – Justin Young Apr 5 '16 at 22:59

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