I can only think of the word European as a word that doesn't go after the word an. Is there any other words that start with a vowel, but don't go after an?

  • What are you asking? "This" also doesn't go after "an". "Purple" also doesn't. Also, "are"...
    – Charles
    Oct 15, 2013 at 22:11
  • 4
    ‘European’ does not start with a vowel sound, which is what matters. It starts with a ‘you’ sound, which has the consonantal /j/ as its first element. Oct 15, 2013 at 22:27
  • 1
    "University". "Union". "Eulogy". "Ewer". Any word that starts with a syllable that sounds like "you". "A"-versus-"an" is only a matter of what the word immediately after the article sounds like. Oct 16, 2013 at 3:06
  • 1
    And also one, /wan/. Oct 16, 2013 at 8:17

2 Answers 2


That would be true of pretty much any word that started with a "you" sound, regardless of how it is spelled since "a" or "an" is based on the pronunciation, not the spelling.

A union

A utility

A eulogy, a eunuch, a euphemism, a euphoria

A uniform standard of spelling, which we don't have in English

A useful rule of thumb -- 'an' before vowel -- which doesn't always work

A unified mess of different linguistic sources, which compose the vocabulary of the English language.

OK, sorry, I got carried away.

Where it gets fun is where it varies by dialect. Is it "a hotel" or "an hotel"? Is it "a herb" or "an herb"? Depends on whether you are "a united states citizen".

  • A ewe is a female sheep
    – Henry
    Oct 15, 2013 at 22:57
  • It's a /y/ sound, not a "you" sound. "You" is not a sound. The rule is very straightforward: a before consonants, an before vowels. In every case. But -- and here's where the hard part comes -- the vowels and consonants are pronounced, not spelled. Since lots of words spelled with U actually start with /y/, it's a consonant. Opposite situation, silent H in hour, starts with a vowel /aw/. If you're a native English speaker, you already know this. If you're not, learn to say it out loud; the spelling won't tell you. Oct 15, 2013 at 23:14

I assume you mean this because European begins with a vowel. Try a urologist.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.