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Gehanna
02-09-2006, 08:50 PM
Are you supposed to use a before a word that beings with the letter h or are you supposed to use an?

The examples:

We offer a holistic approach to stress management and strategy for daily living.

OR

We offer an holistic approach to stress management and strategy for daily living.


Thanks,
psy7ven

Fern
02-09-2006, 08:55 PM
a

PattiTheWicked
02-09-2006, 09:04 PM
In this case, it's "a".

Sometimes, it's "an" -- I think. You know, like if the H is silent, like in Herbal.

Where's Reph?

Gehanna
02-09-2006, 09:12 PM
Good, I was hoping it was a in this case. :)

veinglory
02-09-2006, 09:17 PM
a

and 'h' in herbal only seems to be silent in America, I have no idea why.

Gehanna
02-09-2006, 09:24 PM
In some parts of America it's pronounced Oybel :D

Seriously though, I've caught myself saying herbal with and without the h.

Cyjon
02-09-2006, 10:09 PM
One of those "I read it on the internet so it must be true" moments :)

I've always wondered how the "an historical event" thing came about. I came across something on the web a few months back that explained it. It started in England, because many Brits drop the H at the beginning of words. So if you say 'istorical, then it is easier to say "an 'istorical event". This got carried over into written British English. Americans figured that the British must know what they were doing, so it became part of American English.

Gehanna
02-09-2006, 10:16 PM
Oy! I have an eadache now.

travNastee
02-10-2006, 11:26 AM
a

and 'h' in herbal only seems to be silent in America, I have no idea why.

Probably because we are probably the country with the most people named "Herb" (as in Herbert) so I doubt we'd be comfortable drinking HERB(as in Herbert)al tea.

Mike Coombes
02-10-2006, 02:51 PM
In old English 'h' was considered a vowel equivalent, if I remember rightly (probably the French influence, therefore we would say, and write, an hotel.

It's dropped from common usage now, mostly.

And incidentally, most Brit's don't drop their 'h'es. It's a regional thing. Too many americans, I think, assume we all talk like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

NewB
02-10-2006, 03:01 PM
I might be wrong, but this is what I remember from my English language classes.

Using 'a' or 'an' depends on the pronunciation and noth the way you spell a word.

When you pronounce a word, if it starts with a vowel, then you use 'an', or else it's 'a'.

Honest - 'an' because h is silent.
Herbal - 'a' because h is not silent

You can witness this when you are saying some word which starts with a consonant, but you pronounce it with a vowel, you automatically put an 'an' before that. The best example I can give is STD booths. Over here, public phone booths are called STD booths. When you are using that in a sentence, you tend to use 'an'.

"I looked for an STD booth, but couldn't find one."

"I looked for a STD booth, but couldn't find one."

The first sentence flows better, don't you think?

dragonjax
02-12-2006, 09:04 AM
Using 'a' or 'an' depends on the pronunciation and noth the way you spell a word.

When you pronounce a word, if it starts with a vowel, then you use 'an', or else it's 'a'.

Exactamundo. You wouldn't say (or write) "an URL" -- you'd say, "a URL."

As for the H situation, it's a toss-up: "A historic event" OR "an historic event" -- both are correct. Defer to your magazine's or publisher's preferred style guide.

Shadow_Ferret
02-12-2006, 10:11 AM
Honest - 'an' because h is silent.
Herbal - 'a' because h is not silent



I thought the H was silent in herbal. Don't we say "erbal?" As in "erbel essense shampoo?" We do say "erbs" as in "thyme is an erb." Right?

reph
02-12-2006, 10:53 AM
Over here, public phone booths are called STD booths.
Well, over here, STD stands for "sexually transmitted disease." I don't want to know what happens in an STD booth.

Also over here (U.S.), we say "an herbal remedy" because the h is silent. It's also "a history of Europe" and "a historian," even in England. A thread on another forum, maybe Novels, covered all this some time back.

aruna
02-12-2006, 11:33 AM
I thought the H was silent in herbal. Don't we say "erbal?" As in "erbel essense shampoo?" We do say "erbs" as in "thyme is an erb." Right?

Here (in the UK) the H in Herbal is not silent, so we say A herbal tea. Also the TV ad for herbal essences here says Herbal!!!

I went to a pretty posh school where they were very strong on diction, and the h in history and historical was never silent. The "an historical" always irritated me. It really is a regional thing.

Maryn
02-12-2006, 07:21 PM
How the speaker says the "H" word is what really matters.

An STD, a URL... whether it's "a" or "an" depends on how the following word is sounded, not how it's spelled. The first, STD, is pronounced as if it were spelled ess-tee-dee--starting with a vowel sound, which is why it requires "an." It doesn't start with "S" at all. The second, URL, is said as if it were spelled yoo-arr-ell (which looked like pirate dialogue before I threw in the hyphens), starting with a consonant sound, and therefore requires a preceeding "a".

To further complicate things, if the word starts with "H" and has three or more syllables, the formal writer or speaker uses "an" only if the first syllable is not accented, the second syllable is, and the vowel sound in the accented syllable is not a long u or eu. So it's a history lesson about an historic event. That leaves us with a hardbitten cop, a helicopter, a helium balloon, a hooligan, a humidor, and an habitual liar, an harmonious group, an heptathlon, an hibiscus, an holistic approach if the speaker is formal or academic.

[No, of course I didn't just know all of this! But I knew a little, honest.]

Of course, if it's dialogue or if the POV character is not formal, the writer can trust his or her inner ear, IMO.

Maryn, who is wasting brain space remembering the parts of the inner ear

aruna
02-12-2006, 08:04 PM
an habitual liar, an harmonious group, an heptathlon, an hibiscus, an holistic approach if the speaker is formal or academic.

[No, of course I didn't just know all of this! But I knew a little, honest.]

Of course, if it's dialogue or if the POV character is not formal, the writer can trust his or her inner ear, IMO.

Maryn, who is wasting brain space remembering the parts of the inner ear

COme on! That has to be American usage! I'd NEVERE use "an" with any of these, and have never heard it thus used. (And I grew up in a land of hibiscus!)

rekirts
02-12-2006, 08:09 PM
Thanks Maryn, for that enlightening explanation. I was trying to figure out why I would say a history lesson, but an historical event.

I don't know about the rest of Canada, but when I say herb and herbal, I pronounce the h.

Edit: Just saw aruna's post. I'm sure what Maryn said is the correct usage in Canada, too. I would find saying a historical event awkward. Having just tried it out though, I find that what I say sounds more like an 'istorical event.

aruna
02-12-2006, 08:19 PM
Thanks Maryn, for that enlightening explanation. I was trying to figure out why I would say a history lesson, but an historical event.



Dunno about that. I would always say/write "a historical event". Surely this has to depend on whether ot not you pronounce the "h" in "historical".

rekirts
02-12-2006, 08:52 PM
I pronounce the "h" in historical except when it has "a" or in this case "an" in front of it because it's hard to say a historical. So I say an historical and the "h" disappears.

reph
02-12-2006, 11:03 PM
In my part of the U.S., we pronounce the "h" in "historical." "An historical" would sound terribly affected.

pdr
02-13-2006, 09:41 AM
And where I come from we pronounce url the same way as earl. Therefore it's an url to us.

JenNipps
02-14-2006, 08:10 AM
Also over here (U.S.), we say "an herbal remedy" because the h is silent. It's also "a history of Europe" and "a historian," even in England. A thread on another forum, maybe Novels, covered all this some time back.

I think whether it's said "erb/al" or "herb/al" is regional. Most people I know, say it herbal, but I tend to go back & forth between the two.

poetinahat
02-14-2006, 08:22 AM
I had to add the aitch when I moved from the US to Oz. It's definitely Herbal 'ere.

I've always found "an historic" to be, as reph says, terribly affected, but I'm an aspiring curmudgeon and a green-belt grammar crank.

Me? I'd go "a holistic". But it's not the hill on which I'd want to die. I'd keep reading either way.

pianoman5
02-14-2006, 11:03 AM
Here's the best article I've encountered that deals with this hoary old chestnut.

http://www.grammartips.homestead.com/historical.html

If, when challenged by someone over your personal use of one or the other alternatives, you cite from the article the following:

'In historical, the first syllable receives only tertiary (third-level) stress, whereas in hotel, the first syllable receives a secondary stress so strong that it is nearly equal to the primary stress on the second syllable. For this reason, the h in a hotel is pronounced almost as fully as the h in a hot day.'

you're guaranteed to send your inquisitor packing.

aruna
02-14-2006, 11:17 AM
If you speak and write British English, you can probably keep using an before historical, hysterical, habitual, etc. I doubt that you will be challenged by your own countrymen, and if Americans challenge you, just point out that British usage and American usage often differ.


Hm. Well. I have to say that, having grown up with British English, I was never taught this, and in fact assumed it was an American usage. SO much for the wonderful Miss Hull back at Harrogate Laydies College!

rekirts
02-14-2006, 07:38 PM
To many Americans, an historical reference probably sounds pretentious and unlikely. But to many of us who are middle-aged or older, that phrase sounds better (and is easier to pronounce) than a historical reference.
Argh! My age is showing.

Interesting link, and just goes to show why it's all so confusing.

NewB
02-15-2006, 08:21 AM
I thought the H was silent in herbal. Don't we say "erbal?" As in "erbel essense shampoo?" We do say "erbs" as in "thyme is an erb." Right?

Also over here (U.S.), we say "an herbal remedy" because the h is silent. It's also "a history of Europe" and "a historian," even in England. A thread on another forum, maybe Novels, covered all this some time back.

We pronounce the 'h' in herbla, historic, historian. Hence, we use 'a'.


Well, over here, STD stands for "sexually transmitted disease." I don't want to know what happens in an STD booth.
I know. That's why I stated what STD stands for over here ;)

NewB
02-15-2006, 08:32 AM
an habitual liar, an harmonious group, an heptathlon, an hibiscus, an holistic approach

COme on! That has to be American usage! I'd NEVERE use "an" with any of these, and have never heard it thus used. (And I grew up in a land of hibiscus!)
I have to agree with aruna. I wouldn't use 'an' with any of those. 'Hibiscus' is actually pronounced as 'ibiscus' in the US? I didn't know that.

Sage
02-15-2006, 08:44 AM
I have to agree with aruna. I wouldn't use 'an' with any of those. 'Hibiscus' is actually pronounced as 'ibiscus' in the US? I didn't know that.I (in the U.S.) wouldn't use "an" w/ any of those either.

reph
02-15-2006, 10:19 AM
'Hibiscus' is actually pronounced as 'ibiscus' in the US?
Not around 'ere, it hain't.

katee
02-15-2006, 10:50 AM
Maybe the easiest thing to do is to avoid using "a" or "an" in front of words beginning with H.

Most of these examples make my brain hurt. And don't even get me thinking about the correct way to stress harass...

reph
02-15-2006, 10:55 AM
Isn't there a traditional song refrain that goes "With a hey, ho, . . ."? Now, I'm sure it's not "With an hey, ho, . . . ."

aruna
02-15-2006, 11:55 AM
"with a hey and a ho and a hey nonny no, with a hey nonny nonny no!"
Yep, no an.
(Song: It was a lover and his lass)