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Since user starts with a vowel shouldn't we use "an" ? I've seen many cases of using "a" .

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2 Answers 2

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From Amerenglish:

"An" goes before all words that begin with vowels:

  • An egg

With two exceptions:

When "u" makes the same sound as the "y" in you, or "o" makes the same sound as "w" in won, then "a" is used:

  • a union
  • a united front
  • a unicorn
  • a used napkin
  • a U.S. ship
  • a one-legged man
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    An user did sound incorrect; It is nice to be right.
    – this
    Jun 2, 2014 at 16:44
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    This is missing at least one other exceptional case, when 'E' makes the same sound as the 'y' in you, like a European. This is mentioned in the link you provided. You could probably reword the exceptional cases to indicate that 'a' is used whenever the following word begins with the sound of a consonant, regardless of the actual letter.
    – julealgon
    Jun 18, 2015 at 15:30
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    I down voted because it doesn't answer the question. He assumed the OP/readers are native and could recognize the u in user is pronounced as the y in you.
    – Alexis
    Aug 6, 2020 at 12:42
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It's a because the first sound of user is not a vowel, but the consonant /j/.

‘Vowel’ and ‘consonant’ describe letters that represent vowel and consonant sounds, but they also describe the sounds themselves. A vowel is a sound made from the throat without interruption by the other vocal organs. A consonant is a sound blocked or restricted by audible friction. The initial sound of ‘user’, /j/, is interrupted by the position of the soft palate and the tongue. It is convenient to group it with the other consonants, but, because its place and manner of articulation are a little different from them, it is also known as a semi-vowel.

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  • Please, could someone elaborate on this? I had never heard of that and I am having trouble looking for the right keywords to search for it.
    – Cesar
    Aug 25, 2014 at 10:17
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    ‘Vowel’ and ‘consonant’ describe letters that represent vowel and consonant sounds, but they also describe the sounds themselves. A vowel is a sound made from the throat without interruption by the other vocal organs. A consonant is a sound blocked or restricted by audible friction. The initial sound of ‘user’, /j/, is interrupted by the position of the soft palate and the tongue. It is convenient to group it with the other consonants, but, because its place and manner of articulation are a little different from them, it is also known as a semi-vowel. Aug 25, 2014 at 10:38
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    There are also ambiguous words such as house and horse where depending on how you pronounce the words depends on how you use them. So if you say 'orse or 'ouse, then you will say an horse but if you pronounce the h, then you would say a horse. Which is somewhat ironic when the letter h itself would be an h and not a h.
    – Cephlin
    Jul 7, 2017 at 14:36
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    @Cephlin: "when the letter h itself would be an h and not a h" - unless, of course, you pronounce the letter as "haitch", in which case it would be a h and not an h. ;-0 Jul 20, 2018 at 0:32
  • why is /j/ used to represent the sound of the first syllable in username?
    – oldboy
    Apr 11, 2021 at 7:24

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