The general rule says 'a' should be used if the 'h' makes a sound, e.g., "a horse" vs "an hourglass", or (somewhat debated) the first syllable is not stressed, e.g., "an hotel".

But I'm not sure how these apply to acronyms - especially for something like HSBC, since people can pronounce the standalone letter 'H' as either 'Eydj' or 'Heydj'

An Eydj-Ess-Bee-Cee branch

A Heydj-Ess-Bee-Cee branch


  • 3
    Cheat: "A branch of HSBC". :) Mar 21, 2022 at 11:05
  • 2
    (1) HSBC is pronounced by pronouncing its constituent letters as letters. Using the terminology standard on ELU, it is an initialism rather than an acronym (qv; contrast 'NATO' etc). // (2) 'For most English speakers, the name for the letter [H] is pronounced as /eɪtʃ/ and spelled "aitch" or occasionally "eitch". The pronunciation /heɪtʃ/ and the associated spelling "haitch" is often considered to be h-adding and is considered nonstandard in England. It is, however, a feature of Hiberno-English, as well as scattered varieties of Edinburgh, England, and Welsh English, and ... Mar 21, 2022 at 12:40
  • in Australia and Nova Scotia.' [Wikipedia] Mar 21, 2022 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


The sound of the letter 'H' is conventionally represented as aitch in English, so it's an HSBC branch. The pronunciation haitch is non-standard.

(Incidentally, hotel used to be pronounced with a silent 'h' because it was thought of as a French word. The same word had been borrowed into English centuries earlier as hostel, in which the 'h' is always sounded.)

  • 'Hotel' is still pronounced with a silent 'h' in my house. Likewise 'historic', but that may be due to excessive consumption of Victorian novels at an early age. Mar 21, 2022 at 22:56

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