Okay, you’ve come across the term “an hour” in writing and seen that it’s using an “an” even though the word “hour” starts with an “h.” Of course, this can be confusing at first glance, but luckily there isn’t that difficult of a rule to remember when to use “an” and when to use “a” instead.
Is “An Hour” Or “A Hour” Correct?
“An hour” is correct, while “a hour” is wrong. This is due to the silent “h” at the start of the word “hour.” Say it aloud if you need help understanding why it’s silent. We say “hour” more like “our,” which means we need to use the “an” when talking about it.
What Is The Grammatical Rule That Makes “An Hour” Correct?
The rule to remember is pretty simple. Most words that start with a consonant (b, c, d, f, g, etc.) will need to have an “a” before it. Any words that start with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) need to have an “an” in front of them. However, this rule only applies to how the word is pronounced rather than how it is written.
It’s for this reason that words like “hour” actually need an “an” before. Even though the word starts with a consonant (H), it is pronounced silently, making the first actual sound we hear a vowel (O) instead, and thus needing the “an” to accompany it. There are other words along the way that have the same rule to follow, but we’re mostly talking about “hour” here.
Why Do Many People Fail The “An Hour” Or “A Hour” Grammar?
Okay, now that’s cleared up, it probably seems quite easy. So, why is it that so many people struggle with it and get the rules wrong? If you’re one of these people, don’t worry about yourself too much. It’s easy to mistake. Basically, if you’re getting it wrong, it’s because you’re taking the rule too literally.
Most people think that “an” is strictly for vowels and that “a” is strictly for consonants. They believe the whole rule only works for words written down and forget entirely about spoken words instead. It’s usually not their fault, but the fault of a poor explanation when they learned about it. From this point on, remember that it’s all about how the word sounds.
If you’re struggling with it, say the word you’re confused by in your head as well as the “a” or the “an” before it. You’ll soon find which one makes more sense. Saying “a hour,” for example, has a very harsh stop between the “a” and the “hour,” which shouldn’t occur in the English language.
Does The Rule Also Apply To “Half An Hour” Or “Half A Hour?”
It’s safe to say that we’ve cleared up most of the problems people now have with it, so it should be clear what our answer to this question is. Before we answer it, though, have a quick think yourself about whether the rule still applies.
The answer is yes. It does still apply. The word “hour” hasn’t changed and still needs either the “an” or the “a” to come before it. Since we make pronounce “hour” with a silent “h,” we still need to make use of the “an” for a smooth flow in our speech. Think about how abrupt the stop will be if you say “half a hour.” It just doesn’t sound right.
Example Of How “A” And “An” Is Different For Silent-H Words In American English And British English
Let’s finish by briefly looking at how the “a” and “an” rules can be different depending on where you are in the world. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have to worry about changing it too much for people since you’ll mostly be talking to people with your own language. However, there are notable differences between “a” and “an” between American and British English.
The most obvious example is “herb.” In American English, “herb” is pronounced with the silent “h,” like “erb.” For this reason, “an herb” is right in American English. However, in British English, the “h” sound is not dropped, so it is said literally like “herb.” Therefore, British English requires you to say “a herb” as the “h” sound is a solid consonant.