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If the rule about the indefinite article is:

'a' is used before nouns starting with a consonant.

Why is 'an' used in the following sentence:

I want to work in an outstanding company.

  • 'A' is used before words starting with a consonant; here, the adjective precedes the noun and so affects the article. – Kate Bunting Nov 18 '19 at 16:13
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The rules are based on pronunciation and not on spellings.

'a' is used before 'consonant sound' not before actual consonant. 'an' is used before 'vowel sound' not before actual vowel.

Like below, the words start with the same letter but are preceded by different articles:

'E' with consonant sound

a eulogy

'E' with vowel sound

an edge

  • Thanks, Ankit. As you might expect, this question has appeared on ELU before. Many times. The peculiar exceptions to the better 'rule' you give (some say 'an hotel', 'an historian' even with aspiration) have also been covered. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 18 '19 at 16:41
  • So how does this apply to the word 'company' ? More clarification please, relating to my specific sentence, thanks. – EnglishProtutor Nov 19 '19 at 8:23
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    There really isn't more to clarify. If your sentence were "I want to work in a company" it would simply be "a." The article modifies the noun phrase "outstanding company" which starts with vowel and has a vowel sound. So, "an outstanding company." So it would be "a building" and "a large building" but "an extremely large building." – MDHunter Nov 19 '19 at 18:36

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