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Grammar: An vs A

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Zagros View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23 May 2010 at 10:28
Take note, the choice of which of the two is used to prefix subject words is based on whether those subject words begin with a vowel or a consonant.  A vowel or consonant - but not their representative letters, their sound.  So the rule is applied phonetically.

With this simple rule it still amazes me that educated people continuously and consistently prefix such words as historic with an an - not only does this word begin with a consonant letter, H, but the H is not even silent unless you have a pirate accent or something. 

http://www.ehow.com/how_2221937_use-vs-sentence.html

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/591/01/
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 12:49
I say 'an historic' as I feel it adds a certain prestige to the topic, and also makes me feel important for using 'an' where it isn't supposed to be used.
http://xkcd.com/15/



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 13:30
Not just the run of the mill educated people, but scholars as well. I've seen "an historic" used somewhat frequently in histories and even translations. Isn't it actually the standard method in parts of the English speaking world?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 13:36
Parnell, you're too cool for school

Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

Not just the run of the mill educated people, but scholars as well. I've seen "an historic" used somewhat frequently in histories and even translations. Isn't it actually the standard method in parts of the English speaking world?
 
-Akolouthos


Exactly!  And others copy without thinking twice.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 13:54
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Parnell, you're too cool for school

Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

Not just the run of the mill educated people, but scholars as well. I've seen "an historic" used somewhat frequently in histories and even translations. Isn't it actually the standard method in parts of the English speaking world?
 
-Akolouthos


Exactly!  And others copy without thinking twice.
 
I'd be interested to see if there is actually any official support for it. It seems so prevalent that there has to be something behind it. Generally I've seen it in older works; then again, generally I'm looking at older works, so that doesn't really mean anything. LOL Do you see it more in British than in American scholarship? That's always been my impression.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 14:56
No particular transatlantic bias from what I've read.  I have seen members do it here, heard it said on documentaries, in announcements, in movies - "... an historic moment ..." that one is the classic cliche and makes me cringe the most.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 14:57
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 15:15
Some forget that it is the sound that dominates and how one enunciates has a lot to do with it! Is it a hisstoric or an istoric moment? Of course, pedants will have their day but essentially one has to blame the vagaries of the H within the dialectical conundrum. The aitch--or as some would have it the haitch--has given gray hairs to the young and ponderous opportunity to the would be savant eager to pontificate. Guess what, the haitch sound is non standard English, so if you enunciate a hiss for history you are but 24% of the British population (we will not mention Ireland where Protestants teach aitch and Catholics embrace haitch); as for Americans, let us just say it is how you perceive the name of the sound that will determine the article of choice: an aitch or a haitchEvil Smile!
 
So, guess what, all you would be aesthetes and pundits of the phonetic, standard English usage demands the use of an and not a as the correct appended article, but then it is all down to just exactly how you are enuncicating:
 
 
Was H.G. Wells conscious of an historic moment in Anglophone publication when he composed a history titled An Outline of History?
 
When is aitch not aitch but haitch? Perhaps it is time for English to adopt the savoir faire of the French and Spanish and drop the damned letter as a pronounciational altogether!


Edited by drgonzaga - 23 May 2010 at 15:16
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 15:33
Indeed, but there is a grammatical standard to which one must adhere.  Imagine what a fine mess we'd be in if everyone spelt according to their accent...  In fact, this is the very reason why a standard was established in the first place.  So all speakers of English should adhere to their regional standard (e.g. US/UK) which universally decree that "an historic" is incorrect grammar.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 15:36
As an aside, I pronounce the letter as "aitch" but I always pronounce the sound when it's part of a word unless it's supposed to be silent, as in honour or joins with another letter to create a different sound altogether.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 19:23
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Indeed, but there is a grammatical standard to which one must adhere.  Imagine what a fine mess we'd be in if everyone spelt according to their accent...  In fact, this is the very reason why a standard was established in the first place.  So all speakers of English should adhere to their regional standard (e.g. US/UK) which universally decree that "an historic" is incorrect grammar.
 
 
Zagros as old as this bit can get the standard as far as English goes is the rule of aitch: the aspirated H requires the an and not the a in terms of the indefinite article as even Wiki concedes:
 
"The perceived name of the letter affects the choice of indefinite article before initialisms beginning with H: for example "an HTML page" or "a HTML page". The pronunciation /heit/ may be a hypercorrection formed by analogy with the names of the other letters of the alphabet, most of which include the sound they represent."
 
 
By the way, it might come as a shock to you, Zagros, but American English is the product of spelling in accord with the accented pronunciation! Or do you want to belabor (belabour) this point as well?
 
Language is funny that way and in this instance it is the "accent" in historic [on the second vowel and not the first] that governs: historic and not historic (e.g., an-his-to-ric-moment and not a-his-to-ric event). The tongue will always win out...
 


Edited by drgonzaga - 23 May 2010 at 19:34
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 19:38
Do people still believe that English has grammar?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 19:46
Well, given that I stated the rule on the use of an or a is dependent on phonetics then, I don't understand why you're making the point you are, since it's what I pretty much said in the first place.  I don't know anyone who pronounces history as istory unless you're talking cocknies or pirates, but I wouldn't give them any authority over official English.  And I am talking about the written word, just so you're not confused. The case of HTML is an instance in which use of an is acceptable and the only correct option because it is an acronym where the name of the letter itself as opposed to its phonetic sound is pronounced such as in history, which must always be subject to an a, and not an an.  Aitch is the official name here.

I will beleyber the point: American English in spelling labour and colour, etc. as labor and color is not really achieving any greater degree of phonetic spelling than UK spelling.  It just removed a redundant letter because as we know, phonetically spelt, labour and colour are: ley-ber and kuhl-er... according to dictionary.com, at least.

Edited by Zagros - 23 May 2010 at 19:53
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 20:02
Is not "h" often a redundant letter? It certainly is redundant when you get to historic and historical, where enunciation requires emphasis not on his- but elsewhere. Lissez, Zagros, lissez (with due apology to the erstwhile Duke of Benevento, M. Talleyrand).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 20:22
Long story short: it's not a silent H regardless of where emphasis is placed.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 20:48

Only to the lovers of the ji (or ge) sound but hey it's a tough job bringing civilization to the barbarian horde!Evil Smile William the Conqueror should have been far more thorough at his task...

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 21:46
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Only to the lovers of the ji (or ge) sound but hey it's a tough job bringing civilization to the barbarian horde!Evil Smile William the Conqueror should have been far more thorough at his task...

 
Ah the English language: the one thing contact with France actually improved.
 
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Addendum: Of course it's a joke. Anyone who took offense should lighten up. LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 22:21
Most popular thread in ages, and its about grammar. Nerds. Tongue
http://xkcd.com/15/



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 22:50
Nerds? Of course we are, we're on a history site, for Pete's sake.  (Don't mean to digress, but does anyone know who Pete from this particular idiom I just used actually is?)
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 00:02
1) Al Jassas is exactly right. Grammar and Spelling in English is optional.
2) Since people became more secularly the lines have been blurred a bit, but traditionally in Australia 'haitch' was always a sign of having gone to a Catholic school.
3) Haitch or Aitch is irrelevent to the word history as history is pronounced the same way regardless of how you pronunce 'H'
4) Only after Zagros mentioned it did I notice that people do say 'an historic'. In this case I think its because saying 'a historic moment' sounds less important than 'an historic moment'. Probably we're all quoting someone's speech where he got it wrong. In short, I'm guessing some people say 'an' for historic reasons
5) I think Pete might be Saint Peter. Its a non-blasphemous substitute for 'For God's Sake' or 'For Christ's Sake'


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 24 May 2010 at 00:03
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 00:04
Could be Saint Peter taking the place of God or Jesus?

Evil Smile Or......

 it could be Peter Pan?
Peter cottontail?
Peter from the folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary?
Peter from the Brady Bunch?
Peter Piper who should be picking a peck of pickled peppers, instead of letting his name being invoked in such an obscene way?
Or it could be my neighbor Peter, from down the street?

Anyways... this sure is an interesting thread Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 02:55

Good golly, Miss Molly! We've gone from the mincing of the posh to the realm of the minced oath! What next, some Professor Higgins (er, Perfesser 'iggins) intent on torturing a luckless Liza? Why we even have an Irishman pretending to teach the English how to speak! Parnell, Shaw gave it up long ago and need I remind you of your Haitch connections and the tainting of this particular well. By the way "For Saint Peter's sake" has attestations back to the 14th century, but zounds why must it be a Romance speaker who must make room to swing the cat over the aitch?

By the way zounds, as with bloody, would be an appropriate riposte to all of the pretensions over usage of the indefinite article absent the consumption of at least several pints!
 
By the way...have fun here:
 
 
 


Edited by drgonzaga - 24 May 2010 at 03:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 05:15
Quote Why we even have an Irishman pretending to teach the English how to speak!
Better than an American Dr G
 
But really, if you want good english learn it from an Indian.
 
PS. 'An' and 'a' historic are both correct as per below. Like most things in English, rules shouldn't stand in the way.


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 24 May 2010 at 05:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 05:22
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

Better than an American Dr G


Awww... shucks... why'd u hav'ta gun un' dun tat four. Big smile
 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 12:10
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

 Perhaps it is time for English to adopt the savoir faire of the French and Spanish and drop the damned letter as a pronounciational altogether!
 
As far as the French is concerned you have the same problem. Do you say 'les Halles' pronouncing the 's' or not prouncing the 's'? Do you write " l'héritier " or " le héritier"? Off hand I can't tell you: I'd have to look it up. But you definitely write and say "Le Havre", not "L'Havre" and you definitely write and say "l'homme" not "le homme".
 
Personally in English I write 'an historic' because I say 'an historic' and I do that because I find 'a historic' impossible to pronounce without throwing in an unwarranted glottal stop.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 12:12
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

1) Al Jassas is exactly right. Grammar and Spelling in English is optional.
Doesn't mean it doesn't have grammar. Can't have a meaninigfule language without grammar. It would be more accurate to say that there is a choice of English grammars that you can use.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 16:31
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

As far as the French is concerned you have the same problem. Do you say 'les Halles' pronouncing the 's' or not prouncing the 's'? Do you write " l'héritier " or " le héritier"? Off hand I can't tell you: I'd have to look it up. But you definitely write and say "Le Havre", not "L'Havre" and you definitely write and say "l'homme" not "le homme".
 
Personally in English I write 'an historic' because I say 'an historic' and I do that because I find 'a historic' impossible to pronounce without throwing in an unwarranted glottal stop.
 
But, Gcle, those distinctions exist so as to prevent confusion in sound and intonation: Le Havre (a proper name) and lavre (a verb form), which enforces a glottal stop! However, the "h" sound is really non-existant except in the finesse of the H muet and the H aspire...but sacre bleu! must we enter the truly esoteric.
 
 
Of course, the intellectual Frogs will tip their hat and say "if it ain't Latin you must aspire"!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 18:47
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

 
Personally in English I write 'an historic' because I say 'an historic' and I do that because I find 'a historic' impossible to pronounce without throwing in an unwarranted glottal stop.


I am the opposite, I find trying to say "an historic" a bit of a tongue twister, but that is because I pronounce my Hs quite heartedly.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 19:13
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

 
Personally in English I write 'an historic' because I say 'an historic' and I do that because I find 'a historic' impossible to pronounce without throwing in an unwarranted glottal stop.


I am the opposite, I find trying to say "an historic" a bit of a tongue twister, but that is because I pronounce my Hs quite heartedly.
 
Agree with this assessment.
 
In Arabic I pronounce Hs whenever I find them and carried this habit to English, even when I immitate an English accent I fail when it comes to Hs and especially Rs.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 21:20
Well my first language and accentual recourse is Scots and we pronounce our Hs, as should be, too. Ken whi' ah mean?
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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