I've been watching some online courses and I'm having a difficulty understanding what exactly are they saying. The courses are scientific in nature and rather often an indexed symbols appear. The indexed symbols are usually written with a subscript, like this:

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When refering to those, the instructor pronounced them like you would pronounce "ace of n" and "eyes of c". It seems that the suffix s is added to the letter. I have completed a non-English education, so this was new to me.

What are the rules regarding indexed symbols?

Is it simply: a's of n, or i's of c, and more importantly why?


1 Answer 1


You are mishearing the instructor. He is saying "a sub n" and "i sub c", where "sub" is short for "subscript".

If the symbols are written with a superscript, like an and Ic, then the spoken version is "a sup n" and "i sup c", where "sup" is pronounced like "soup", and is short for "superscript".

  • 2
    "Ace of n" ... I like that interpretation.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 1, 2013 at 18:38
  • I agree that it appears that you have misheard the speaker, possibly due to accent. And the abbreviation of subscript is likely why you misunderstood. Oct 1, 2013 at 18:54
  • Now that you've told me, I can really hear "sub"... Fascinating! :) Thank you for the answer. Oct 1, 2013 at 18:56
  • 2
    Notice that the plural suffix is pronounced /z/ in many cases (depending on what it follows), whereas sub always starts with /s/. Learning which words spelled with "S" are pronounced /z/ and which are pronounced /s/ is basic to learning English. Only the whole sentence can tell you, at times. Oct 1, 2013 at 19:51

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