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rebbel's avatar

When to use a and/or an?

Asked by rebbel (35525points) September 27th, 2021
8 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

I’m not referring to the rule that a and an are used, depending on the first letter of the word following being a vowel or a consonant.
But rather in a situation like the following (a sentence I just wrote in an answer in another thread).
Namely: ”...if it was a (health/life or death) emergency….”, is what I wrote, my reasoning being that the reader will probably read the health/life or death part immediately after the a part.
Or should I have used the an, because the main sentence is an emergency (which could be a health or a life or death one)?

Grammar grandma’s (or young men and women)???

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Zaku's avatar

You should use the non-parenthetical sentence flow.

Or, write a(n) (Armenian) gentleman.

Zaku's avatar

Oh, or a(n Armenian) gentleman.

ragingloli's avatar

a/an is about ensuring the flow in spoken language, so the word that follows a/an is what decides which to use.

Demosthenes's avatar

The general rule is that what is inside the parentheses should not affect the grammar of the sentence or make it awkward and if it does, you should rewrite the sentence. The sentence should be grammatically correct without the parenthetical information.

However, the use of a/an is a matter of pronunciation, not grammar, so in this case I would agree with @ragingloli and say use “a”. In other words, whether you use “a” or “an” is dependent on the following sound. It doesn’t matter what punctuation happens to be there.

That is my view, at least.

Zaku's avatar

@Demosthenes It’s everyone’s view, so far, and hopefully ever, since it’s correct.

SavoirFaire's avatar

It’s like @Demosthenes said, which means you should rewrite whatever part of the sentence is causing the problem (e.g., “if it was a health emergency or a matter of life and death”).

RocketGuy's avatar

How about: “historic”? A or An?

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