Today’s Quick Grammar Tip deals with when to use the indefinite articles “A” and “An” and also the rules regarding the correct pronunciation of the definite article “The”.
Some of you have been taught that the indefinite article is “a” when it precedes a consonant and “an” when it precedes a vowel. This is actually not correct and I hope to explain the rules in an understandable manner.
You see, in the situation of the vowel or the consonant what the rule actually states is a “consonant sound” and a “vowel sound”. What’s the difference you might say? Actually there is a big difference.
Let’s look at some examples;
“My wallet was found by an honest man, who returned the money to me.” In this example we use the article “an” preceding a consonant, the consonant being “H”, the first letter of “honest”. However, the word honest starts with a vowel sound, because the “h” is silent. If we look at the sentence, “ I had a hard day at work”, we can see that here we use an “a” before the “h” in hard, because the word “hard” starts with a consonant sound.
Some situations call for one use in Britain and another in America, for example, “At home I have a herb garden” (British) and, “At home I have an herb garden” (American).
“It was Ivan’s dream to earn an MBA”. Here we use “An” in front of the consonant “M”, because in this case the “m” has a vowel sound.
This “vowel sound” requirement also has a lot to do with our next Quick Grammar Tip;
“Thuh or Thee”, the Correct Pronunciation of the Definite Article
This topic builds upon what we just discussed in terms of consonant or vowel sounds, so it fits well with the thing that we just spoke about concerning the indefinite article.
Many people don’t realize that there are two ways to pronounce the definite article “The”. The two ways are “Thuh and Thee”. We use “thuh” when the definite article precedes a consonant sound and we use “thee” when it precedes a vowel sound. Let’s look at some examples:
“Thuh dog ate “thee” iguana, but then “thee” alligator ate “thuh” dog.”
“Thee honest man then killed thee alligator and made some nice alligator shoes”
“Max went to “thuh” college and then enrolled in “thee” MBA program.”
The situation concerning the pronunciation of the definite article is actually a rule in English grammar. That being said, a large percent of people don’t really follow the rule because they were either not taught it well, or have forgotten it. But, for all of the students of English who will listen to this podcast, you need to understand that when you speak English, you will always be taken more seriously if you speak it correctly, so work on making sure that you are correctly pronouncing these very common articles.