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British English Help: Usage of "An"

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
I need some help. I'm trying to find some kind of rule or documentation that describes the British usage of the article "an" before words beginning with an "h" that is followed by a vowel.

i.e.

American = "a hotel room"
British = "an hotel room"

I suspect that this is simply about Americans pronouncing the "h" and Brits not really doing it so much.

Can anyone find me a rule or source documenting this? Google didn't turn much up, but I'm sure I'm not looking for the right terms.

Thanks in advance.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #2 of 25
Thread Starter 
Nevermind. I found it in something we have around the house called a "book."

For anyone interested...it goes like this:

The old rule is that if the word begins with an "h" and the first syllable is not accented, it gets an "an."
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #3 of 25
Duly noted.
"If I had played my career hitting singles like Pete (Rose), I'd wear a dress." - Mickey Mantle
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"If I had played my career hitting singles like Pete (Rose), I'd wear a dress." - Mickey Mantle
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post #4 of 25
I always played it by ear; write what sounds right.

an hour
a hiccup
post #5 of 25
i thought that if the word had a short 'o' vowel sound as opposed to long 'o' after the h it was proper to use 'an '.
an honest mistake
a hopeless situation
but usually i use whatever sounds right
post #6 of 25
I know that the word "historic" is supposed to have an "an" before it.

"This is an historic day for string cheese."
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Living life in glorious 4G HD (with a 2GB data cap).
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post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicFingers View Post

i thought that if the word had a short 'o' vowel sound as opposed to long 'o' after the h it was proper to use 'an '.
an honest mistake
a hopeless situation
but usually i use whatever sounds right

English drives me nuts sometimes. "honest" has an emphasis on the first syllable but takes an "an" as its article. Hopeless has an accented first syllable and takes an "a." See? It's completely consistent!
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by CosmoNut View Post

I know that the word "historic" is supposed to have an "an" before it.

"This is an historic day for string cheese."

Err... The H is pronounced in British English. Therefore the correct way to say it is "a historic", not "an historic".

Also, the word "herb", Americans for some reason pronunce it "erb". The British say "Herb".

*Edited to add: Therefore Americans might say "Parsley is an erb" while the English would say "Parsley is a herb".

Cheers
post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tilt View Post

Also, the word "herb", Americans for some reason pronunce it "erb". The British say "Herb".

<EddieIzzard>Because there's a fucking "H" in it.</EddieIzzard>
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

English drives me nuts sometimes. "honest" has an emphasis on the first syllable but takes an "an" as its article. Hopeless has an accented first syllable and takes an "a." See? It's completely consistent!

Midwinter, I don't think it has anything to do with the accented syllable. It only has to do with whether the H is pronounced or not. Therefore it is only logical that "Hopeless" should be preceded by "a".

Likewise with "Uniform" and "Umbrella". Both begin with a U but the pronunciation of "uniform" sounds like it begins with a Y and therefore is preceded by "a" rather than "an" whereas "umbrella" needs an "an".

Cheers
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

<EddieIzzard>Because there's a fucking "H" in it.</EddieIzzard>

Am a fan of Eddie Izzard

Cheers
post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tilt View Post

Midwinter, I don't think it has anything to do with the accented syllable. It only has to do with whether the H is pronounced or not. Therefore it is only logical that "Hopeless" should be preceded by "a".

Likewise with "Uniform" and "Umbrella". Both begin with a U but the pronunciation of "uniform" sounds like it begins with a Y and therefore is preceded by "a" rather than "an" whereas "umbrella" needs an "an".

Cheers

I understand that. That was, in fact, how I had always understood the rule to work: if the h was pronounced, it took an "a" ("a history"); if it wasn't ("an hysterical woman") it took an "an." But then I found that rule in one of my rulebooks that argued that it was about primary, secondary, and tertiary placement of accented syllables.

In short, I think I managed to "rule" myself out of what I always thought (and what seems to) be correct.
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

I understand that. That was, in fact, how I had always understood the rule to work: if the h was pronounced, it took an "a" ("a history"); if it wasn't ("an hysterical woman") it took an "an." But then I found that rule in one of my rulebooks that argued that it was about primary, secondary, and tertiary placement of accented syllables.

In short, I think I managed to "rule" myself out of what I always thought (and what seems to) be correct.

I just go by the pronunciation. That's how I was taught in India (a former British colony if you remember )

BTW, (sorry to keep correcting you) "Hysterical" - the H is pronounced. It is "Hysterical", not Ysterical", therefore preceded by "a", not "an".

Cheers

*Edited to correct typos*
post #14 of 25
Yeah, English blows. Anyone that would study it must be a real douche.

Wait...HEY!
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I can only please one person per day.  Today is not your day.  Tomorrow doesn't look good either.  
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post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tilt View Post

I just go by the pronunciation. That's how I was taught in India (a former British colony if you remember )

BTW, (sorry to keep correcting you) "Hysterical" - the H is pronounced. It is "Hysterical", not Ysterical", therefore preceded by "a", not "an".

Cheers

*Edited to correct typos*

Really? I find an almost equal number of references in Google Books to "an hysterical" and "a hysterical." I assume we're talking about RP English here and not just some random dialect, correct?
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

Really? I find an almost equal number of references in Google Books to "an hysterical" and "a hysterical." I assume we're talking about RP English here and not just some random dialect, correct?

Yes, I am talking about RP English

Cheers
post #17 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tilt View Post

Yes, I am talking about RP English

Cheers

Can you provide a few examples of words with a non-aspirated "h" at the beginning in RP? Now I'm really curious.
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #18 of 25
An yways ?

English drives me nuts

-t
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

Can you provide a few examples of words with a non-aspirated "h" at the beginning in RP? Now I'm really curious.

OK, I am just back from the bar and I am not exactly sober but I shall attempt:

Honest
Hour

Shit, I cannot think of any more right now, give me a few hours! On the other hand maybe these are the only words that have a silent H at the beginning!

And BTW, when you're spelling orally, the letter H is pronounced "aitch" and not "hetch"

Cheers
post #20 of 25
One more word occurred to me - Honour!

Cheers

And BTW for the Americans in this group, Honour is spelt with a U. It is not Honor! And it is certainly not
Alooooooominum" it is AlumiminIUm, pronounced "alumi NI YUM"

Cheers
post #21 of 25
I haven't gone to bed yet and I am still drunk, so please bear with me


Cheers

*edited to correct 'ned' to 'bed', I am still too drunk!
post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tilt View Post

Shit, I cannot think of any more right now, give me a few hours! On the other hand maybe these are the only words that have a silent H at the beginning!

Hehe. Have another pint and think on it.
Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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Gangs are not seen as legitimate, because they don't have control over public schools.
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post #23 of 25
One more - Heir, pronounced "Air"

Cheers

Still not gone to bed, still drunk!
post #24 of 25
You know what? Instead of my going through the dictionary for words beginning with H ( I am on page 15 of 68), you (or anyone else here), please give me words and I shall tell you whether the H is silent or not. That is much easier when I am totally sozzled!

Cheers
post #25 of 25
Is the H silent in schnackered?

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