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In this sentence:

The teller would refuse (a/an) 1149 penny payment.

"1149" could be pronounced "one thousand one hundred forty nine", or it could be pronounced "eleven hundred forty nine". One way would take "a"; the other would take "an". Assuming I don't want to spell out the number or rephrase the sentence, which article should I use?

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You always use the one that corresponds to your pronunciation. Spelling doesn't matter.

Writing represents speech, not vice versa. You write it like you say it, however that may be.

It’s the same thing when writing something like “an herb” versus “a herb”: you write whichever one you actually say, depending on whether you pronounce the leading h-.

  • Your "herb/herb" analogy is spot-on. You win. – wfaulk Jan 21 '18 at 18:03
  • Agreed, except as a writer of fiction I would have American characters say "an herb" and "an 1149...", but British characters say "a herb" and "a 1149..." For nonfiction, I'd probably make similar choices based on who my expected readers were. – Ross Murray Jan 21 '18 at 18:26
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I would sidestep that problem by writing, "The teller would refuse a payment of 1149 pennies."
Also note in your original version you would need a hyphen in "1149-penny payment".

  • I said in the post "Assuming I don't want to spell out the number or rephrase the sentence". – wfaulk Jan 21 '18 at 17:43
  • Sorry. I noticed the part about not wanting the write out the number but was skim reading after that. :( – Ross Murray Jan 21 '18 at 17:50
  • I suggest the answer depends on how whoever is making the payment would pronounce the number. I'm not American but I guess only Americans call one-cent coins 'pennies' and most of them would say 'eleven hundred forty-nine'. Either way, you'll probably end up annoying some which I why rephrasing occurred to me as the best option. – Ross Murray Jan 21 '18 at 17:59
  • @RossMurray but penny comes from the UK (pounds and pence). So the only reason this couldn't be a UK-based situation is that we don't really use teller – Chris H Jan 21 '18 at 18:31

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