English language question

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English language question

Postby MrSnowflake » Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:01 pm

I have a question concerning the English language. When should one write 'a' or 'an' in a sentence like: "I just love the G1 as its an android device". But what should you use here: "This is an MCE company". My feeling tells me it should be a, because the next words starts with a 'M', but maybe the rule concerns the sounding of the first word, so it should be an MCE (and it starts with an 'M' :)).

so please only people who are really good in English :).
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Postby plusminus » Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:53 pm

afiak you put an 'an' when the next char is an 'a' 'e' 'i' 'u' 'o'.

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Postby MrSnowflake » Sat Oct 11, 2008 11:58 am

That's what I thought, but a movie company used it and they can't be wrong. Can they ?:)
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Postby plusminus » Sat Oct 11, 2008 1:51 pm

dunno :P
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Postby ninor » Sat Oct 11, 2008 3:43 pm

Maybe it's ok when used before aeiou, but maybe it's different when it's spoken ("M" -> sounds: "AAM")
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Postby Quetzalcoatl » Tue Dec 23, 2008 2:16 am

"This is an MCE company"


I would say "..an MCE company" but don't ask me what the definitive rule is. :?
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Postby MrSnowflake » Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:18 am

I came across a counter example: "a unit". Normally you would say it should be an unit, but that doesn't sound and look quite right... :)
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Postby Quetzalcoatl » Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:30 am

Yeah you're correct, 'an unit' just sounds strange but 'a unit' is how I would say it. Maybe there's some significance with the actual sound rather than just the leading character. I can't remember all the different sound types (glottal etc. :? ) but there is a difference between the sounds of unit & umbrella. In this case it would be 'a unit' and 'an umbrella'.
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Postby ErnestoGuevara » Tue Jan 13, 2009 12:18 am

Good question. I'm glad there's a guy called "Dr. Grammar" to come to the rescue.

From http://www.drgrammar.org/faqs/#36:

"Use a before a consonant sound; use an before a vowel sound. Before a letter or an acronym or before numerals, choose a or an according to the way the letter or numeral is pronounced: an FDA directive, a U.N. resolution, a $5.00 bill" (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage). Please note: This is the basic rule. For a more thorough presentation of the complexities of using a or an, see the source cited here."

So a/an depends on the sound, not the letter. Thus:
An uninhibited young womam ("uh" sort of sound)
an mce extension (an Em-Cee-Eee extension)

Unit is tricky, but is "A unit" according to this thread:
forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=575555
"The reason you have to use a instead of an is the "u-sound" you find at the beginning of words like use, you, European, etc, is, from the phonetic point of view, a semi-vowel, that is, a sound which ressembles a vowel but is used as if it was a consonant. And the same goes to the w-sound (in words like wave, wagon, etc.)"

By the way, I regularly use wordreference (cited above), which has great forums for language learners to help each other with this kind of thing.

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Postby MrSnowflake » Tue Jan 13, 2009 3:02 pm

Awsome thanks mate, now we know for sure :). Nice site too!
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