I have an unusual situation related to the well-worn topic of when to use a/an before an acronym. We all know that the SOUND is what dictates which to use. So, for example, this is correct: "If an NOAC has been discontinued in the setting of acute UGI bleeding ... "

However, here is where I'm stumped. My acronym starts with the letter "U". A vowel right? But it's a vowel that sounds like a "Y" -- which either IS or ISN'T a vowel sound, depending on whom you ask. And this just sounds totally wrong to me: "Ten percent of rapid rectal bleeding has an UGI source." I desperately want to make it "a UGI source." If I'm not wrong, why am I not wrong? I will need to defend my decision to the higher ups!

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    You're on the right track, basing your choice on how it sounds when read. For example it's "a university" not "an university". I believe this is adequately answered by one of our earliest questions here: When should I use “a” vs “an”?
    – MetaEd
    Dec 12, 2017 at 19:36
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    “Depending on whom you ask” is not really valid justification for anything. If you ask a two-year-old what two plus two is, you’re likely to get an incorrect answer; that doesn’t change the fact that 2 + 2 = 4. Same here: if you ask someone who understands phonetics, you’ll get the same, correct answer every time, because the actual facts don’t change, just how much people know about them. UGI is pronounced /ˈjuː ˈʤiː ˈaɪ/, which begins with the sound /j/. That’s the sound that most commonly corresponds to ⟨y⟩ in writing, and it is consistently treated as a consonant in English. Dec 12, 2017 at 20:00

1 Answer 1


"a UGI source" is correct--because one uses "a" with a noun that begins with a consonant-and the sound of "u" (as in "UGI") is treated as a consonant: a university, a used car, a usurper...

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