Should a sentence say a elf or an elf?

My little brother is nine years old. He keeps telling me that the sentence on his paper should say a elf instead of the way I put it an elf. He put a hole in his paper to get rid of the n in an. I asked a friend and he said I was right.

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Johenix7 years ago
Rule of thumb: If it starts a vowel, or sounds like it starts with a vowel, you use "an" - exception words would be some words that start with "U" like "user" - "a user" not "an user" or sound like they start with a "U" like "eunuch" - "a eunuch" not "an eunuch".  (Fortunately we don't have many eunuchs around.)
AN elf is right. But what about an gnome?
Lornna7 years ago
 It's an elf, if the word begins with vowel, the irregular article is "an"
Burf7 years ago
It should be "an elf" Any word that begins with a vowel sound, including words like honor or herbs, takes the word "an" before it.
Interesting one that. In English English, the "h" is aspirated, so its "a herb". In American English it would be silent, so "An Herb"

English dialects are sometimes strange. I have a very good friend who is Canadian born and schooled but now lives in the States. His speaking accent is no different than any mid-west American I have ever known, but he still uses the British spelling for most variant words; colour instead of color, aluminium rather than aluminum, etc.
You guys rationalised your spellings didn't you ? Isn't that what Webster did ? Our use of "colour" and "programme" are adopted affectations from the French, which happened after the Pilgrims left here apparently. Quite why aluminium is called that is a bit strange - the discoverer named it aluminum too.

Separated by a common language....

I was thinking about that exception...I suppose the rule is correct, but its interpretation is regional
frollard7 years ago
A or An, that is the question...

Good question - 99% of the time, it all depends on the SOUND of the first syllable. 
If it as a hard or soft vowel sound - ay, ah, eh, Ee, iy, ih, ow, oh, o, uu, (like ooh) but not those 'sometimes y' sounds 'you', you use AN.
If it starts with any consonant sounds, it uses A.

With very few exceptions:
Vowel = AN
Consonant = A
Some consonants 'hard' forms sound like vowels, like "R", sounds like ARR, which starts with a soft vowel A - so it uses AN.

Acronyms (or initialisms) are words that are formed using the letters or sounds of other words - often used to remember stuff or shorten sentences:
AWOL - absent with-out leave
RADAR - RAdio Detecting And Ranging
Acronyms are like normal words, and use the correct A/AN rules.

INITIALISMS are like acronyms, but they DO NOT form a real word, and you pronounce each letter.
ATM = Automated Teller Machine.  "I used AN ATM"
RRSP = Registered Retirement Savings Plan.  "I have AN RRSP"

Ebonics has a common pronunciation/grammar semantic 'error' where only 'A' is used and many words are shortened/changed/substituted with slang.
Read these out loud:  they sound a bit weird:
"I got a accent"
"He gave me a infection"
orksecurity7 years ago
Simple test: which is easier to say quickly?

(Two distinct vowels in rapid succession is hard, at least for those of us who aren't used to thinking in terms of glottal stops. "A elf" would rapidly turn into "a yelf" and not be understandable. Hence the change from "a" to "an".)
Re-design7 years ago
Tell your friend that you are right and that he is being "A" troll.
seandogue7 years ago
Agreed with others...

"AN" elf

Any word with a vowel sound at the beginning of a word should use "an"

novakfor37 years ago
An elf.
lemonie7 years ago
Agreeing with the previous two comments, tell him the plural is "elves" too.

aarone7 years ago
It's "an elf" because elf begins with a vowel. Your friend and your little brother are wrong.
Should be "an elf", you're right.