According to the rule, the article "a" is for consonants and the article "an" is for vowels. Nevertheless, I have seen it frequently that many use the article "a" with both vowels and consonants. For example, they say "this is a expensive car" not "this is an expensive car" as it should be. Is there a reason for that?

  • 1
    'This is a expensive car' is ungrammatical. It should be this is an expensive car. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 16:23
  • If it's strictly a matter of writing, it's just a mistake. Many people make typos, especially when writing instead of typing. I have occasionally heard this, but very rarely, and either as a speech error or as an unsuccessful attempt to sound dialectal. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 16:53
  • Yes, KannE. (English spellings are irregular and weird). Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 16:54
  • The decision is not based on vowel or consonant, it's based on the sound -- vowel sound or consonant sound. Thus "an heir to the family fortune".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 17:39
  • 1
    In the 'London Multicultural' regional dialect, and certain others (e.g. Caribbean), the conventions about 'an' (and the way 'the' is said) before words starting with a vowel sound) are ignored. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 17:56

1 Answer 1


It's an expensive car.

As Kann says, it's about the sound, not the type of letter. For instance, we say a uniform and an honor.

It's simply easier to say an apple than a apple. Likewise, it's easier to say a uniform than an uniform.

(Americans say an herb, while Brits say a herb. Can you guess why?)

  • In BrE, 'herb' starts with /h/ sound. In AmE, 'herb' starts with a vowel. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 17:34
  • Brits used to say 'an hotel', and I don't mean Cockneys. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 17:53
  • I know all about that sound case like you said (hotel, euro, European, honor, herb, hour......etc.) But what would make someone use 'an' before words like expensive or old? Is it something colloquial?
    – Yoanna
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 18:37
  • @Yoanna - an apple, an expensive apple. The rule applies to whatever word is after the indefinite article. Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 20:28
  • I am sorry I meant "why would someone use 'a' not 'an' before expensive" but i got your point. Thank you very much for your time.
    – Yoanna
    Commented Mar 29, 2020 at 21:33

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