1. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    A or an ...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by cutecat22, Jul 23, 2015.

    a herbaceous
    an herbaceous


    Which one?? I'm leaning towards 'an'.

    Or does it depend on your pronunciation of 'a'

    A herbaceous - works if you say ay (as in Hay) but not if you say a as in cat.
     
  2. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    An
     
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  3. CJT
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    CJT Member

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    There is a phonetic rule:

    If the sound after the article is a vowel or dipthong SOUND, then it is 'an'
    If the sound after the article is a consonant SOUND, then it is 'a'

    a dog ['d' - a consonant sound]
    a cat ['k' - a consonant sound]
    a big banana ['b' - a consonant sound]

    an egg ['e' - a vowel sound]
    an hour [note that the SOUND here is 'ou' (or, 'ow'), not 'h', so it is a dipthong (term for two or more vowel sounds linked) sound]
    an intelligent bird ['i' - a vowel sound]

    So, your question becomes one of pronunciation of 'herbaceous'

    Being British, I would pronounce the 'h' at the front, so would use 'a' to make it sound right to me. But Aaron DC, (@Aaron DC - I'm only guessing!) maybe uses American pronunciation, and so drops the 'h', so would use 'an', which sounds odd to English ears, if there is an 'h' (pronounced here as 'aitch', so making it a vowel SOUND - lol), sounded at the front of the word.

    BrE: a herb - a herbaceous border
    AmE: an 'erb - an 'erbaceous border


    It would be interesting to know if this is shown in writing in the US vs the UK, and whether books are edited to reflect this, if it is!

    I used to teach English as a Foreign Language, and this always used to come up in pronunciation, especially if there were British and American teachers for the students.

    EDIT: just found a simple explanation on the net http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/an_or_a.htm
     
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  4. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I never realised this. Nice one.

    @CJT with the knowledge bombs. ;)
     
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  5. Snoreos
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    Snoreos Member

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    Officially, it is "an" since the "h" is meant to be silent, but English is a difficult language and decided to have a tantrum and rebel, resulting in the "h" actually being heard. This is the same as "an historian", for example.

    The only time you wouldn't use "an" is depending on your accent. US generally would say "an" as they leave out the pronunciation of the "h", while the British way of saying it would be to say "a", since the "h" is pronounced.

    In writing, though, before a word beginning with "h", you should generally use "an".
     
  6. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    En Francais we say "an 'erb". I know not of zis American pronounciation of which you speak.
     
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  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Hmmm.

    I understand but by that rule, you would say "an house" as house begins with the same sound as hour, but you don't, you say a house, an hour ...
     
  8. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    @Snoreos do you say "a horrible idea" or "an horrible idea"?

    Even though I wish to say an herb or an herbacious, I say a horrible.

    harumph.
     
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  9. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    A horrible house!
     
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  10. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    English is like the language that takes the absolute piss out of the "exceptions that prove the rule", innit.

    Bastardised language.
     
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  11. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Silent h?

    I don't quite follow how herbaceous has a silent h.
     
  12. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    An Hour in A Horrible House
     
  13. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    An Hour In An Horrible House (depending on how slang English you say it)

    Here's slang english for ya:

    a' nour inen 'orrible 'ouse.

    (which translates to an hour in a horrible house)
     
  14. CJT
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    CJT Member

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    NO, no, no!

    It isn't the letter, but the sound that makes this

    in the word 'house' you hear the SOUND 'h' at the front of the word
    but, in 'hour', it is pronounced the same as 'our' (as in our house - LOL), so there is no 'h' SOUND

    It is the sound that is important, not the letter.
     
  15. CJT
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    CJT Member

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    @cutecat22

    LOL!
    That's true - I have heard 'an 'ouse' used in accented BrE - and that's because it sounds right, as there is no hard 'h' at the front!
     
  16. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    An hour in a horrible house with an heir with a hair wrapped around a hare guarding a harem.
     
  17. Snoreos
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    Snoreos Member

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    I think you misfollowed what I said. Like French, the letter "h" at the beginning of a word should be mute. However, it isn't in a lot of cases. English is an evolving language and so the "h" represents. A lot of the time, it's down to dialect, though. Hence, why I mentioned the difference between pronuciation in US English and British English.
     
  18. CJT
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    CJT Member

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    While sitting in the bough of a tree, I bow to your wit; whilst continuing to string the bow I whittled a while ago, that I may show my true appreciation!
     
  19. Snoreos
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    Snoreos Member

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    This is why I say English is a horrible (!) language. Not only does it go against all rules, but you can even say "that that" in a sentence and it is deemed acceptable.
     
  20. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    Now that that is out of the way, anyone for a spot of tea?
     
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  21. CJT
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    CJT Member

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    Ohh - reminds me of a sentence that was used to get students to puzzle through the structure of!:


    That that that that that mentions, should be a this!

    LOL
     
  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    and, "how many spaces between fox and and and and and hound?"


    @Snoreos H should not actually be mute when it's at the beginning of a word. (Not in standard English!) It's silent when it's in words such as through, thought, bought, wrought, bough, and in other words, it teams up with the letters P or G to produce an F sound, such as: rough, photograph and glyph.

    When H is has the beginning of a word, you are supposed to sound it.

    Hour is Hour, not our.
    House is House, not ouse.
    Hogwarts is Hogwarts, not ogwarts.
    Hill is Hill, not ill.
    Hot is Hot, not ot.
    And God forbid you dump Humpty's H, he's got enough to deal with, with his cracked shell ...

    Yes, there are colloquial/regional differences in the way English people speak but H's are there for a reason, even if some people only use them to distinguish our house from the river Ouse.

    They are not automatically silent.
     
  23. CJT
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    CJT Member

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    Sorry, but there are four words I can think of, that are generally spoken by both Brits and Americans with a silent 'h' at the front:

    He was driving at 62 miles an hour
    "He is an honest Prime Minister? That'd be a first!"
    "It is an honor to meet you"
    After 3 years of marriage, the new Queen gave the King an heir to the throne.

    There are, of course, variants of dialect, but that was how I was given the information.

    A quote from William Blake even has it:
    I seem to remember that there are only these 4 that are (mostly) universal, I could be wrong though.
     
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  24. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I'll give you the one about Heir.

    But not the others. Even if you don't say hhhhour (as if you're steaming up a mirror) you still say it softer than you would say 'our'. So the h is not silent.

    The Blake quote only addresses the use of 'an'. It makes no comment on whether an H is silent or not.
     
  25. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    So you pronounce hour as "how-er"?

    I don't think that's right...
     
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