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The indefinite article a becomes an when it precedes a word beginning with a vowel sound. Similar conventions can be found in thythine and the now-archaic mymine.

Aside from these three examples, are there any other words that take on a special form when they proceed a vowel sound?

I'm aware that some people consider amongst to be a prevocalic form of among, but this usage does not seem to be universal, and furthermore doesn't follow with similar word pairs such as amid/amidst or while/whilst.

  • I have never heard of the "amongst" thing, do you have a citation for that? – Azor Ahai Sep 23 '16 at 20:42
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    It's wrong, anyway. That's not the way amongst works, no matter what somebody may have opined. There is also the differential pronunciation (though not spelling) of the: /ði/ before vowels /ði'oldhæt/, vs /ðə/ before consonants /ðə'bɪghæt/. – John Lawler Sep 23 '16 at 21:13
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    @Azor-Ahai No definitive source per se, but it's mentioned in writingexplained.org/amo and english.stackexchange.com/a/66059/170366. blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/02/am also notes, 'Some older grammar guides state that amongst is typically followed by a word starting with a vowel, but this assertion isn’t supported by the evidence of current English as found in the [Oxford English Corpus].' – Meshaal Sep 23 '16 at 22:10
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It depends on what you mean by "form." It's quite uncommon for words to be spelled differently before vowel sounds; it's somewhat more common for words to be pronounced differently before vowel sounds.

For example, as John Lawler mentions in a comment, people tend to pronounced the definite article the as /ði/ before words that start with vowels, but as /ðə/ before words that start with consonants.

Another example, although not at all consistent, is the word of. The /v/ in this word can be elided; as far as I can tell, this is more likely to occur before a consonant sound than before a vowel sound. In a small number of lexically-specified phrases, this elision is mandatory and reflected in the spelling (the only examples I can think of at the moment are jack-o'-lantern and o'clock).

For British English speakers, certain vowel sounds, such as /ɔː/, /ɑː/, /ɜː/, and /ə/, tend to be followed by a "linking r" when they are brought before another vowel.

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    To is another example like the, alternating between /tə/ and /tʊ/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 24 '16 at 8:08

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