14

I am unsure whether to use "a" or "an" in the following sentence:

Video games have become a/an ubiquitous part of American culture.

For me, saying the two sentences out loud makes "an" seem like the right choice but Microsoft Word proofing disagrees.

15
  • Which grammar check version are you using -- UK or US English? Oct 18, 2015 at 19:19
  • US English version
    – terminex9
    Oct 18, 2015 at 19:20
  • 3
    Depends on whether you say youbiquitous like the majority of people nowadays, or oobiquitous. Both are equally correct (for now).
    – user86291
    Oct 18, 2015 at 20:54
  • 1
    @chaslyfromUK- I believe it's a duplicate because the rule stated in the linked answer still applies. It's the consonant sound or the vowel sound that should determine which you choose.
    – Jim
    Oct 18, 2015 at 21:10
  • 1
    No-one says 'oobiqitus' and no-one ever has as far as I know. This is a different phenomenon. Some people did and some people still do use 'an' in front of certain words beginning with 'u'. It is pronounced 'an you-biquitous'. I'll see if I can find examples of other such words. I'm pretty sure that Carl Sagan used to talk like this. Oct 18, 2015 at 21:18

1 Answer 1

11

This isn't straightforward. In my version of English, I would say 'a ubiquitous'. It seems that the grammar checkers in MS Word agree -- both in US and UK English.

However, take a look at this ngram of published works.

Google ngram: a ubiquitous,an ubiquitous

You can see that a changeover occurred in the late 1880s but both versions survive up to the present day.

enter image description here

2
  • 2
    That's bizarre. I wonder how all of the people using "an ubiquitous" pronounce it?
    – herisson
    Oct 18, 2015 at 20:55
  • 2
    They probably pronounce it "oobiquitous". I have heard several people say it that way.
    – terminex9
    Oct 23, 2015 at 21:29

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