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? Sep 23, 2016 at 20:42
  • 2
    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/. Sep 23, 2016 at 21:13
  • 2
    @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, 2016 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


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.

  • 1
    To is another example like the, alternating between /tə/ and /tʊ/. Sep 24, 2016 at 8:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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