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Is it correct to say or write an student or an store?

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7  
How do you pronounce st? This doesn't feel natural. –  Kobi Aug 16 '10 at 8:45
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I've noticed that speakers of Tagalog, for instance, seem to have difficulty saying words beginning with an S consonant blend, preferring to say estore or estudent. –  moioci Aug 24 '10 at 14:03
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moioci: I believe people around the world also do that. Since there is no word starting with s followed by consonant in Portuguese, people tend to think and speak like /ɪstɔːr/ instead of /stɔːr/ –  Denilson Sá Nov 17 '10 at 23:56
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Ditto with Spanish. –  Malvolio Feb 8 '11 at 8:18
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Ditto with Hindi/Urdu speakers (i.e., they also tend to pronounce them istudent and iscore), but anyone with sufficient practice can cure themselves of this habit. –  ShreevatsaR Feb 8 '11 at 9:06
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3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Always use an for words which sound like they start with a vowel, and always use a for words which sound like they start with a consonant. The rules for h are more complex, and it can be ok to use either.

The usage of the indefinite article preceding h are discussed here. In particular, look at nohat's response.

As for student and store, they should always be preceded with a and never with an, because they both start with the consonant /s/ when spoken.

Correct:

A student, a store

Incorrect:

An student, an store

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1  
So e.g. A united states citizen, a unique opportunity but an uncle? –  Eshwar Sep 26 '12 at 4:19
    
Yes. (extra text to fill limit) –  Vincent McNabb Sep 26 '12 at 21:57
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Many Spaniards speaking English say "an (e)student" –  Henry Oct 15 '13 at 23:00
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The quickest way to remember the rule for this: "an hour and a half". Thus, "a" for something with an initial consonant sound, and "an" otherwise.

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When speaking it is appropriate to say

an hour.

When writing you may use:

a hour.

provided you use it consistently. In text containing a large amount of dialogue it could be more appropriate to use 'an' to imitate the manner of someone speaking.

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4  
-1: There's scope for a bit of leeway with "a hotel", and even more with "a historic moment", but I don't think "a hour" is ever correct. –  FumbleFingers Mar 12 '12 at 18:02
    
-1 Agreed. "A hour" is never correct, and makes my brain explode. –  Vincent McNabb Sep 26 '12 at 21:55
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