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I've just read from a comment somewhere that 'a very emotional' is grammatically wrong, and it should be 'an very emotional'. Why is 'very' ignored in this case? If it should be ignored, are there any other words that should also be ignored?

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Where did you read this? Could you please provide a link? –  Thursagen Aug 19 '11 at 12:51
    
techcrunch.com/2011/08/18/those-that-cannot-write-do This is the post where I found the comment. The commenter was probably joking, but I wanted to be sure. –  Yeonho Aug 19 '11 at 13:03
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what a awfully confusing comment to make –  JeffSahol Aug 19 '11 at 13:58
    
One could imagine that in some dialect, "very" is pronounced "wery", and that then one might say "an very emotional..." But that is a bit remotely-fetched. –  GEdgar Aug 19 '11 at 20:12
    
The commenter is completely right. What the comment actually said was: if you remove the very from a very emotional you end up with an emotional. Perfectly fine English. –  Peter Shor Aug 20 '11 at 10:35
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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I don't know where you've read this, and I don't know who made such a comment, but I do know that no such rule exists.

The rule for usage of "an" or "a" is, if the word following has a vowel sound, "an" is used (e.g. An honour, A house). If there's a consonant sound, "a" is used. There are many examples of this in relation to "very" :

That was a very nice house!
It was a very cold day
The house was guarded by a very fierce dog.
That was not a very nice thing to say!

Every time "very" is used, "a" is used.

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There's no need to be so harsh. I think that this incorrect rule is simply a case of slight misunderstanding and not some made up rule from someone with bad intentions. –  Shathur Aug 19 '11 at 13:06
    
I didn't mean to be harsh. Just, definitive. I'll level it out a bit –  Thursagen Aug 19 '11 at 13:07
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The rule is based on phonetics, i.e. the grammatical role of the a or an is completely inconsequential.

Furthermore, it's the sound of the word that follows that counts, not the spelling. So, for instance, it's a union because the u in union does not have the sound of a vowel even though it is a vowel. Conversely, it's an upper level because the u in upper has the vowel sound.

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The rule is to look at the pronunciation of the word following a: If that word with a vowel sound, then you use an; if the word doesn't start with a vowel sound, then you use a.

"A very emotional" is correct, because very doesn't start with a vowel sound.

Notice that I am referring to the pronunciation of the word, not to the letter at the beginning of the word. For example, you write a user because user is pronounced /ˈjuzər/, a young person because young is pronounced /jəŋ/.

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