Use of a or an?

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We all know the alternative use of a or an for historic for writing and the preference for using an with historic in speaking whether the "h" is pronounced or not. But, what about the use of a or an for "eureka", a word derived from Greek from which the original "h" (heureka) has been dropped in its English usage? Does the "y" sound rule prevail -- "a eureka moment"?

See example:

There were several converts, participants who were skeptical at the start but who, after the capstone experience, had an eureka moment, "This works!"
asked Aug 29 '11 at 02:24 T. Mark Blakemore New member

1 answer


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I would always recommend that whenever you're deciding between 'a' and 'an', make your decision based on the sound of the following letter. 

 

Because of the 'yuh' sound, "an eureka" is much more difficult to say than "a eureka", so I would go with the 'a' this time. 

 

Other letters have a similar effect - the letter 'm' for example can be pronounced "mmm" or "em". Go with whichever is easier to say, "a Masters" vs "an MBA". Similarly, 's' can be "ss" or "es", leading to "a sidecar" vs "an SUV".

 

There are differences between pronunciations around the world, which may also influence your usage. Here I would suggest taloring your use to your primary audience - eg, if you're writing for a US market "an herb" is fine, because they drop the "h" in "herb", pronouncing it "erb". For a British audience this would not work, since they still pronounce the "h" ("an 'erb" vs "a herb").

 

Hope that helps! What do you think?

 

 

link comment answered Aug 29 '11 at 11:01 Siân Harris Expert

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