In the following example, is it appropriate to use a or an as the indefinite article, and why?

He ate __ green apple.

I know that in the case of just "apple", it would be "an apple," but I've heard conflicting answers for "green apple," where the noun is separated from the article by an adjective.

Also, which is more appropriate in this case:

He ate __ enormous Pop-Tart.

  • 57
    This reminds me of the hilarious book English as She Is Spoke, a 19th century guide to English written by a Portuguese man who knew no English. Among the other ridiculous errors, the author appeared to believe that English nouns were either masculine or feminine and that "a" was used for masculine, "an" for feminine nouns. Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 17:16
  • See also english.stackexchange.com/questions/1016/…
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 17:29
  • ecenglish.com/learnenglish/when-use-a
    – rogermue
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 18:58
  • 2
    @JoelSpolsky- Thank you for this link to the wonderful article on Wikipedia! Now I want to own a copy of English as She Is Spoke to sit on my shelf beside the novel Irene Iddesleigh, which I read aloud to my wife. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_McKittrick_Ros Loosely quoted, "Her 'admirers' included Aldous Huxley, Siegfried Sassoon, C.S. Lewis, and Mark Twain. Her novel Irene Iddesleigh was published in 1897. Twain considered Irene 'one of the greatest unintentionally humorous novels of all time.' Barry Pain called it 'a thing that happens once in a million years.'" Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 20:34
  • As long as we all agree its "an halibut".
    – icc97
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 8:19

17 Answers 17


The question of "a" vs "an" is always decided by the pronunciation of the word that follows the article. Thus, various geographical regions that have different pronunciation rules may use a different article for the same word.

Words that begin with a vowel sound, such as "apple", "egg", or "hour" are preceded by "an".

All other words, such as "cake", "pie", and "user" (which begins with a y sound), are preceded by "a".

Except (as lifted from @Nohat's comment below) - The rules before "h" are a little tricky, but clear: if a word begins with an "h" sound and the first syllable is stressed (like "house"), then it never takes "an". If the first syllable is not stressed (like "historical") then it is possible to use "an". Some usage authorities would say you must use "an" in those cases, but Nohat is not one of those authorities. You find both "a" and "an" used before words like "historical".

So to answer your actual question:

He ate a green apple.
He ate an enormous Pop-Tart.

"Green" does not begin with a vowel sound, so we use "a".
"Enormous", on the other hand, does begin with a vowel sound, so we use "an".

  • 11
    @Kinopiko: At least in many dialects I've heard, "user", "European", etc. begin with the same (similar?) sound that many words starting with "y" do, thus a "y sound" (probably represented by a 'j' in more formal representations). Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 3:35
  • 14
    @Kinopiko, I think what people mean by a "y sound" is the palatal approximant (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatal_approximant) because that is the sound that the letter 'y' corresponds to in prototypical cases, such as in the word "yes". Are you saying that the palatal approximant is not a sound, or that "y sound" is not a valid way to refer to the palatal approximant?
    – nohat
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 6:26
  • 11
    The rules before "h" are a little tricky, but clear: if a word begins with an "h" sound and the first syllable is stressed (like "hotel"), then it never takes "an". If the first syllable is not stressed (like "historical") then it is possible to use "an". Some usage authorities would say you must use "an" in those cases, but I am not one of those authorities. You find both "a" and "an" used before words like "historical".
    – nohat
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 18:39
  • 9
    @Nolderin - since when don't 'posh' people pronounce aitch? I don't recall the queen ever saying "I am 'appy 'ereby open this 'andsome new 'ospital".
    – CJM
    Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 13:19
  • 21
    In what dialect is "hotel" stressed on the first syllable?
    – user16269
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 7:39

There is a bizarre urban legend of sorts that you're "supposed to" use "an" if the head noun in the noun phrase it determines begins with a vowel sound, rather than the first word in the noun phrase, giving rise to claims that "an green apple" is somehow "technically" correct. Here is a blog post of someone who seems to have gotten this idea. And here is the discussion on Language Log about that blog post.

In any case, the rule is that you use "an" if the next word begins with a vowel sound. Vowel sound is crucial here because many words that begin with vowel letters do not begin with vowel sounds (e.g. user) and vice versa (e.g. hour).

This makes it a kind of sandhi rule for "intrusive N" in English for indefinite articles, avoiding hiatus between the article and the following word.

  • 13
    I thought you were going to say there is an urban legend that if you misuse an "an" you would shot by an arrow or something. Rather disappointed now.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 16:28
  • 2
    @itrekkie, it seems you answered your own question far better than I could have ;-)
    – nohat
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 16:43
  • 6
    +1 for clearing up any confusion. That blog post is hilarious; full-on outrage against an imaginary feature of English grammar. :-P
    – Jonik
    Commented Aug 19, 2010 at 2:45
  • 4
    @Pacerier The first sound of the word "user" is a palatal approximant, which is a consonant, not a vowel.
    – nohat
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 22:19
  • 2
    @CarlSmith Young Britons say 'haitch'. The traditional 'aitch' pronunciation is still used by older Britons and certain young Britons such as me.
    – Angelos
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:29

As said, an before vowels and a otherwise. We know how/when, but not why.

According to Asudeh and Klein, the morpheme for the English indefinite determiner is represented by three different allomorphs ([ə], [ən], and [ej]—though I disagree with schwa slightly, it's the same in spirit), whose appearance is phonologically determined. When the morpheme is immediately followed by a segment marked by [+continuant], [ən] is selected, and if [-continuant], [ə]—the final form is uttered in isolation. —I question their use of [+continuant] instead of the traditional "vowel": this doesn't handle the the case of fricatives: *"an sister"; or approximates: [+continuant, +sonorant], *"an yacht".

What's really interesting here is that they mention a work by Harris that says that this is a form of deletion, that [ən] is the underlying form and deleted where the [n] cannot fill the onset of the following syllable. This begins to explain why a won't work before vowels (as well as why it is an before consonants).

Finally, it's interesting to know that this was a source of great debate for many years. A lot of people argued that this was anything but phonologically determined, wasting a ton of time and effort. Pay attention to phonology!

  • 5
    I loled at the last link.
    – nohat
    Commented Aug 6, 2010 at 6:31
  • 1
    Re "This begins to explain why an won't work before vowels", is vowels actually the word you wanted? Commented May 8, 2012 at 6:33
  • Corrected to "a won't work before vowels" as this is the part it "only begins" to explain (the question remains why we get deletion of the [n] before a consonant - it is a bit like dropping a [t] in "want to" --> "wanna"). Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 3:51
  • Note also the German ein (one/an/a) as well as mein (mine/my) and dein (thine/thy) and that until recently these worked similarly (e.g. "Mine eyes have seen the coming of the Lord."). Also note the as [ðij] before vowels (to avoid a glottal stop) but canonically [ðə] before consonants (but in some dialects the schwa form has disappeared or is in free variation before consontants). Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 4:00
  • 1
    I wonder how Harris would explain why non-yod-dropping speakers who are perfectly capable of using /ə.njuː/ in phrases like "a nuclear bomb" nevertheless use /ə.juː/ in phrases like "a university." I guess the requirement must be that /n/ can serve as the entire onset of the syllable following the article, not just as part of an onset consonant cluster.
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 0:02

Have you really heard conflicting answers? I'm not aware of any controversy amongst native speakers on this issue.

a green apple

is correct.

This is decided by pronunciation, nothing more.

Similarly for the two pronuncations of "the" (ði: and ðǝ).

"He ate [insert here] enormous Pop-Tart."

"an" is correct here, it's decided by pronuncation of the following word, nothing more.

The only instance of a/an controversy amongst native speakers which I'm aware of is "a/an historical", with "an historical" plus aspirated "h" being preferred by some speakers.


Personally, I'm quite happy with waiwai's answer and many of the other points made here. However, one point not really addressed so far is why this rule is so.

The answer is fairly simple. For native english speakers, it's easier to physically say 'an apple' rather than 'a apple', 'an hour' rather than 'a hour'.

I'm sure speech therapists can explain technically in terms of phonation and resonance, but it's not my area of expertise.

It's understandable therefore, that some non-native English speakers might be puzzled - since their vocal chords may be trained differently.

  • While I'm not positive about the reasoning it doesn't seem farfetched to suppose that a phrase like "an object" is less... repetitive or percussive? than "a object". The first would be pronounced the way it appears, whereas the second would be pronounced "uh object". "Uh object" seems to indicate uncertainty, or a stutter, even when neither is the case.
    – Misneac
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 1:21

The rule for using the article a versus an is exactly the same as the rule governing whether one pronounces the article the as /ðə/ or as /ði/.

Both rules operate for the same reason: they make it easier to pronounce and understand an article as distinct from the NP following it. If that NP starts with a vowel sound, we change the article’s pronunciation.

  • an abusive case [RIGHT]
  • *a abusive case [WRONG]

If you did it the wrong way, the article would collide with what came afterwards.

It is the same with the, but here it is reflected in pronunciation alone.

  • the /ði/ aforementioned case [RIGHT]
  • the */ðə/ aforementioned case [WRONG]

If you do either article the wrong way, they will get lost in speech, which will make things harder to understand.

  • 4
    The five-dollar word for this is sandhi.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 18:20

Only look at the pronunciation of the word immediately following the article

The choice between a and an for the indefinite article is always based on how the beginning of the very next word in the noun phrase is pronounced.

The grammatical role of that word in the noun phrase is irrelevant. Spelling is also completely irrelevant, except insofar as it relates to the pronunciation. Since there are a lot of cases where English spelling does not relate to the pronunciation in a straightforward way, spelling is an unreliable guide to the use of a vs. an.

If you’re unsure of the pronunciation of a word or phrase, you can look it up in a dictionary that has a pronunciation guide. There are many good online dictionaries available for free; you can see a list of some of them at the following post: What good reference works on English are available?

The main rule in modern standard English: a before consonant sounds, an before vowel sounds

Fortunately, there is a very simple rule that you can follow that will never lead you astray, as long as you keep in mind the very important fact that it is based purely on pronunciation and never based on spelling. In modern standard English, both written and spoken, we use a before words that start with consonant sounds when they are transcribed phonemically, and an before words that start with vowel sounds when they are transcribed phonemically.

What is a consonant and what is a vowel?

As I've already said, this has nothing to do with ordinary English spelling. You need to use your ears, or look at a phonemic transcription of the word (most of these are based on the International Phonetic Alphabet).

Some of the letters used in the transcription many be unfamiliar to you. If so, it may be helpful to view the lists of IPA letters and example words in the following lecture notes: The Vowels and Consonants of English, by Nigel Musk. If you've chosen to use a dictionary that uses a different system from the IPA, then you should look to see if it has a table of the sounds used in its transcription system where they are classified as consonants and vowels.

It's generally fairly intuitive, but keep in mind that the semivowel sounds /w/ (the “w” sound at the start of wing) and /j/ (the “y” sound at the start of year) count as consonant sounds for the purpose of this rule, despite their phonetic similarity to vowels. So we say "a wing" and "a year."

Example words, some with misleading spellings

Here are some examples:

  • “an apple,” because apple is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /æpl̩/, and /æ/ is a vowel sound
  • “a green apple,” because green is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /griːn/, and /g/ is a consonant sound
  • “a Pop-Tart,” because Pop-Tart is the next word after the article, it is pronounced ˈpɑpˌtɑrt/, and /p/ is a consonant sound
  • “an enormous Pop-Tart,” because enormous is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /ɪˈnɔrməs/, and /ɪ/ is a vowel sound
  • “an hour,” because hour is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /aʊɚ/, and /aʊ/ is a vowel sound
  • “a user,” because user is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /juːzɚ/, and /j/ is a consonant sound (for more examples like this, see Is it "a uniform" or "an uniform"?)
  • "a European country," because European is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /ˌjʊrəˈpiːən/, and /j/ is a consonant sound
  • “an orange T-shirt,” because orange is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /ɔrəndʒ/, and /ɔ/ is a vowel sound
  • “a one-time offer,” because one is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /wʌn/, and /w/ is a consonant sound (for more examples like this, see Indefinite article doubt preceding "one-to-one")
  • “an 1800s town,” because 1800s is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /eɪtiːnhʌndrədz/, and /eɪ/ is a vowel sound
  • “an FAQ,” because FAQ is the next word after the article, it can be pronounced /ˌɛfˌeɪˈkjuː/, and /ɛ/ is a vowel sound
  • “a FAQ,” because FAQ is the next word after the article, it can be pronounced /fæk/, and /f/ is a consonant sound (see the following question for more information about the pronunciation of "FAQ": What is the commonly accepted pronunciation of FAQ?)
  • "an S curve" (or "an S-curve") because "S" is the next word after the article, it is pronounced /ɛs/, and /ɛ/ is a vowel sound (for more examples like this, see Does one use 'a' or 'an' before the word X-Ray?)

“An historic”: Optional class of exceptions to the main rule

As I said earlier, following the main standard rule is always acceptable. However, there is a set of words where it has often been considered acceptable, but optional, to follow a different rule.

Before words that start with the consonant sound /h/ followed by an unstressed syllable, such as historical (stressed on the second syllable: "hi-STOR-ical") the article an may be used instead of a. That is, both "a historical" and "an historical" are generally considered acceptable (although specific individuals may have more restrictive judgements). The use of "an" in words like this may have originally been an effect of speakers dropping the "h" in this position, but modern English speakers who use "an historical" and like phrases don't necessarily drop the /h/ sound entirely.

For more on this, see the answers to Why we say "an historical" but "a history" and When should I use "a" versus "an" in front of a word beginning with the letter h? (for the latter question, look at all the answers, not just the top ones, to get a complete picture).

But my understanding is that words that start with the sound /h/ in a stressed syllable, such as "history" (stressed "HIS-tory"), are always used with the article a instead of an in standard present-day English. So only "a" can be used in "a history" (unless you pronounce the word without an /h/ sound). (It is possible to find historical examples of "an history"; for more on this, see below.)

Words that are spelled with the letter "h", but pronounced starting with a vowel sound are always used with the article "an", in accordance with the main rule covered earlier in this answer. So only "an" can be used in "an hour" and "an honest effort".

See also the following Word Reference thread: A/an: historic, historian, historical, hotel, humanitarian, Hawaiian, honour, herb, hypothesis ...

"A apple": possible for some people in spontaneous speech, but not standard

Sometimes, you might hear people use "a" before a word that starts with a vowel sound, with a glottal stop in between the two vowel sounds. For example, someone might say "a apple" (/əˈʔæpl̩/). However, this is not standard, and is only common for some speakers. For other speakers, it might only occur as an occasional disfluency. In writing, the use of "a" before a word that starts with a vowel sound may reflect this phenomenon, but is often just an error resulting from edits that change word order or word choice. In either case, writing a before a word that starts with a vowel sound is non-standard.

Historical usage of “a” and “an” may be different

In earlier stages of English, these articles were not always distributed in the same way as they are now. This is partly because people used to pronounce some words with different sounds. Be aware of this if you're reading an old text, such as the King James Bible.

See the following questions for more information:

Another good resource on this topic is the following blog post by waiwai93: Articles: “A” vs. “An”

  • The headline on your "main rule" is wrong -- it should include "sounds". (And "sounds" should be in bold italics.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 1:03
  • Related: “A” vs. “An” in writing vs. pronunciation
    – herisson
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 22:46
  • what about “A GNU tool” vs. “An GNU tool”? Commented Mar 28 at 18:02
  • @JohnGreene: Use "An GNU tool" if your pronunciation of "GNU tool" starts with a vowel sound (I don't see how that could happen). Use "a GNU tool" if your pronunciation of "GNU tool" starts with a consonant sound.
    – herisson
    Commented Mar 28 at 21:46

Language is most easily spoken and listened to when there is an alternating pattern between consonants and vowels. It's very easy for the ear to distinguish between vowels and consonants, but not so easy when they are clumped together.

An easily spoken sentence would look like this:

vowel consonant vowel consonant vowel consonant vowel consonant vowel consonant

To maintain this pattern while using an indefinite article, it's necessary to insert a consonant (n) between two vowel sounds or remove the n between a vowel and consonant, whichever way you prefer to view it.

An apple is easier to speak and hear than a apple. A bear is easier to speak and hear than an bear. An IBM employee is easier to speak and hear than a IBM employee.

Some regional dialects actually do not pronounce their "h", such as British English. In those regions, it's easier to speak and hear "an historic event" than "a historic event".

  • 1
    I think what is going on with historic is subtler than that. Many Americans pronounce the "h" in historic, (and other words beginning with h in a non-accented syllable), if and only if the word before ends with a vowel (or if it comes after a natural pause in speech). So with this rule, "a historic" and "an istoric" are both valid pronunciations. Which one is right? I believe a sizeable minority of Americans say "an istoric". Commented Jul 28, 2011 at 16:55
  • I heard one less then a month ago who said both "an istoric" and "a historic" in the space of three or four minutes. But I think it's mainly older people who do this, and maybe there are more people who speak like this in New England. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 19:11

"an" before vowels, and "a" before everything else.

Except for a few exceptions...

Words that begin with a consonant, but sound like they begin with a vowel, I've always understood them to be proceeded by "an" since they begin with a soft sound (eg - An heirloom).

As already pointed out by another answer, "user" starts with a vowel, yet is preceded by "a" because it begins with a hard sound.

  • No exceptions. If it "sounds like they begin with a vowel", then they do begin with a vowel. This is sound we're talking about, not spelling. Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 19:07

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/591/01/ helped substantially, from which I abtract:

How do you know when to use the indefinite articles?

The choice of article is actually based upon the phonetic (sound) quality of the first letter in a word, not on the orthographic (written) representation of the letter. If the first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use "an"; if the first letter would make a consonant-type sound, you use "a." However, you may follow these basic rules when deciding to use "a" or "an," remembering that there are some exceptions to the rules.

"A" goes before words that begin with consonants.

"An" goes before words that begin with vowels:


Use "an" before unsounded "h." Because the "h" hasn't any phonetic representation and has no audible sound, the sound that follows the article is a vowel; consequently, an is used.

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. The word-initial "y" sound ("unicorn") is actually a glide [j] phonetically, which has consonantal properties; consequently, it is treated as a consonant, requiring "a."

  • 1
    I came from here, wondering what to do with unicorns -thanks.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 2:08

In addition to the answers here, consider this non-trivial example - (from Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams):

"I think, that there's an SEP over there"

Now here "a SEP" would do as well, but then you would have to pronounce it "sep" instead of "es-ee-pee" which is what the author meant. E, in "es" is a vowel.

Another less trivial example is "an hour". 'h' is a valid and pronounced consonant, but it still doesn't count.

  • 15
    Do you pronounce the 'h' in hour? I certainly don't. Commented Aug 16, 2010 at 13:12
  • 4
    The "h" in hour is not pronounced in American English.
    – ssakl
    Commented Feb 28, 2011 at 22:42
  • 6
    @ssakl. It's not pronounced in any English dialect I know of.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 1, 2012 at 23:49

It depends on the sound of the word following the article. If the following word has a vowel sound, use an. If the word has a consonant sound, use an a.

See Purdue Notes

There are a few exceptions to this.

  • If this weren't a duplicate, surely it would be general reference? Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 16:46
  • @Edwin Ashworth Agreed that this would be general reference. However, many of us prefer the StackExchange question answer format as a reference.
    – id.ot
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 16:59
  • @id.ot Many of us would prefer to have all the money richer people have. Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 17:14
  • @EdwinAshworth Figure that one out and I'll 'star' it.
    – id.ot
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 17:43

If a vowel SOUND (a, e, o, i) follows, bar y & u, "an" MUST be used, as shown in the examples below:--

An array of delicacies. An enormous man. An Iraqi citizen. An obscure location.

But don't be fooled: if the word following "an" begins with a CONSONANT sound, u & y included here, "a" must be used, instead. Like this:--

A utopia of the present. A yearning. A black man of benevolence. A zebra from Africa.

So in summary, if a word that is immediately after a/an has a vowel sound, "an" must be used; if a word that is immediately after a/an has a consonant sound (which includes the sound y, which is taken on by the letters u & y), "a" is to be used.

Tip: regard the sounds rather than the letters when determining which to use. Soon, it'll come naturally.


Despite all the answers, for some people (regions?) it is normal to say:

a apple
a English
a enormous
a emotional
And so forth.

This usage produces a glottal stop between the 'a' and the vowel sound beginning the second word.

  • But the OP is clearly asking for the "standard" approach. In my experience the pattern you describe is only used by people with an intentionally "affected", hoity-toity speech pattern.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 11:52
  • @HotLicks That surprises me very much. I have precisely the opposite experience: this pattern is closely associated with AAVE, southern drawls, and various other lects which are traditionally considered ‘low’ or uneducated. I would never in a million years associate it with a hoity-toity speech pattern. Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 19:01

Supplemental Answer

I think it would be helpful to review vowels and consonants according to their phonological definitions as opposed to their orthographical definitions (vowels:a,e,i,o,u, and sometimes y that most people think of). This will help clear any doubt when one says "if it starts with a vowel, use an, otherwise if it starts with consonant, use a".

vowel: etymologically related to Latin vocalis via the Old French voieul meaning "vocal" or "voice"

consonant: a compound of two morphemes, con (with) + sonant/sonans (sounding) Latin sonans via Greek σύμφωνον.

So as you see, the rules are fine. Pronunciation is key here, not orthography (how you write it). This explains the differences some people have. People pronounce things differently.


As I studied the origins of grammar in the 18c, I came to understand that most English grammars originated with classical (Greek and Latin) scholars, who attempted to shoehorn English into similar grammatical patterns (declensions, conjugations, mood, tense, voice, number, gender, etc.). One sticking point was to define what is a consonant, what a vowel. Their definition: a consonant sound is made using the lips and teeth and tongue; a vowel sound is made primarily with the breath. So, what to do with the aspirant "h"? The sound made when "h" begins a word is not made with the lips/tongue/teeth, but rather by a modification of the shaping of the breath when pronouncing the following vowel. So, "history" is sounded in the same way as you sound the following vowel "i", but slightly constricted to indicate the preceding "h" (that is, if you sound the "h" at all). Since "h" sometimes seems more like a vowel than a consonant, the choice of indefinite article must conform to that uncertainty: "a" before a stressed first syllable word beginning with "h" (an hisTORic occasion), but "a" before one unstressed (a HIStory), based on the belief that the "h" (breathy) sound is more pronounced when the syllable is stressed.

However, over time (as an ngram shows), "a historic" and "an historic" have gone in and out of usage for 300 years, so either one is now acceptable. Otherwise, in Standard English, "a" before consonant sounds, "an" before vowel sounds

Such choices were borne home to me when I had a student named "Yvonne". When I called on her, I pronounced her name "E-von"; she quickly corrected me: "My name is pronounced 'WY-von'." Which is, I take it, a Southern thing. Of course, I adhered to her preference. And I note: You might encounter an "E-von" or you might meet a "WY-von" in certain places, so choose your articles carefully.

Useful examination of this question in the field of linguistics: https://specgram.com/PsQ.XVI.4/06.pulju.indefinite.html

I'm proud and pleased to be obsessed with the minutiae of language.

  • "As I studied the origins of grammar in the 18c"...you must be getting on a bit now... Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 15:50
  • Snarky comments won't win you any friends.
    – dmms
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 22:32

I am raising my hand here...

To point out on the other side of the Atlantic the English always say, and even write as "an herbal tea"

I mean a herb [a hɜːb]; a is neutral, and h is aspirated; [eɪ hɜːb] when a is emphatic.

Go figure RP!

  • 4
    This is just wrong. Many/most Americans still copy the French original (they don't aspirate the /h/), so they precede it by an. Brits always aspirate herb/herbal, so the article is always a. The only exception to the standard "a before aspirated /h/" rule is this outdated and rarely-observed principle leading to an historic event (and to be honest, the only person I know of who still uses this form is Jeremy Paxman, and everyone who hears him say this thinks it's a bit odd! :). Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 12:05
  • It's American speakers who don't pronounce the letter -h in herb as in, ‘an herb garden’ (Ameng), but ‘a herb garden’ (BrEng)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 5:29

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