I read most of the questions about an and a here, but still I'm not quite sure since I found that uniform should be "prefixed" with a instead of an (read in a comment here). So I totally lost the string here.

A US navy aircraft is helping with the search for debris, he says.

Is this correct or should it be An US navy aircraft...?

  • 1
    This question is not a duplicate of "'An hour' or 'a hour'" because it has to do with the pronunciation of the name of the letter U.
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 20 '16 at 9:54
  • 1
    @BenKovitz The answers here say the same thing as the answers on the duplicate - it's pronunciation, not the letters the words start with. I don't think we need to answer this question for each letter in the alphabet. If it's a question about whether US starts with a vowel sound, the question should explain that more clearly I think.
    – ColleenV
    May 20 '16 at 14:10

The “u” in “US” and "uniform" makes the “Y” sound — a consonant sound — therefore you use “a” as your article.


Yes, it is correct.

Please see the use #5:

Use the indefinite article a before words that sound like they start with a consonant even if the first letter is a vowel.

  • 1
    We do nowadays but we native speakers used to regularly use an before such words, eg 'an university', 'an usage'. Learners will stand find these in older written works, so it's helpful that they know of the past usage. May 20 '16 at 17:06
  • @AlanCarmack, you made a good point indeed. May 20 '16 at 17:15

It is easy. Pronunciation decides, not the letters. For example, US is pronounced as /ju:'əs/ so the first sound is /j/ rather than /u:/ or /ʌ/ as in umbrella /ʌmˈbrel.ə/, so we say:

  • an umbrella,
  • a US flag
  • a map (/mæp/)
  • an mp3 player (/em.piːˈθriː/)

So if a noun starts with (a, e, i, o, u), it does not mean we should always use indefinite article "an", only where needed. This rule is correct only if the beginning of the word produces a vowel sound.

  • I think you made a typographical error on "Wihe". What word did you mean?
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 20 '16 at 9:55
  • @Ben Kovitz I realy do not know how it happened. I wanted to write "when". :-o and thsnk you for mentioning.
    – user33000
    May 20 '16 at 10:15
  • @J.R. Thank you editing it. On my cell, the mobile version, I just can type words. No link, make list... options are provided. So many thanks goes to you and all who edit my questions or answers:-)
    – user33000
    May 20 '16 at 17:07
  • Also note that sometimes US and British English differ. For instance, in the US it's "An herb" (silent 'h') and in Britain it's "A herb" (spoken 'h'). Also, if you read older works, pronunciation changes can throw you. For instance, in the 17th century it was "An humble" (silent h) whereas now it is "A humble" (spoken h). May 21 '16 at 0:02

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