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When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h?

What's the proper wording here, neither one sounds right to me:

"Chevra, an humanitarian organization..."

or

"Chevra, a humanitarian organization..."

My instinct says it follows the same rule as "an hour", but the 'h' sound is more pronounced in 'humanitarian', so I'm unsure.

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if a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? –  Claudiu Nov 16 '10 at 23:27
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marked as duplicate by Matt Эллен, RegDwigнt Jan 10 '12 at 11:41

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It depends on your accent, because the "a/an" pattern is completely phonological. Some dialects don't pronounce the [h] very strongly or at all in cases where it is followed by [j] (the "y" sound), like in "humanitarian" [hjumæn...], "humor", or "huge". In my dialect, the [h] is definitely pronounced so I would write "a", and I believe this is the most common pronunciation in the US (though I am not certain).

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