Is it “a” or “an”?

Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)

Sorry, English as second language coming through. I know it’s an apple or an umbrella. So why does an UPS truck sound wrong in my head? Is it an UPS truck?

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maddielee

A

like a truck

eta: in the olden days (before 1970) diagraming sentences was a thing. The ‘UPS’ would be an adjective which would be on a separate line.


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matthias_lang

Since you pronounce the letter "U" as a consonant Y as in yoohoo, yet, yellow, and yarn, I think the "a" is appropriate. A UPS truck.

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Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)

Thank you so much! I was afraid this would be one of the silly questions that get stuck in my head and keep me awake.

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chisue

Right, it's 'a truck'. 'UPS' is the adjective that describes the type of truck.

Ah, but when our HVAC tech arrives from Arrow Heating and Cooling Company, he's driving 'an Arrow truck'. Is it the 'stutter' of one 'a' immediately followed by another?

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Bookwoman

matthias_lang is correct that it's the 'y' sound which dictates the 'a', rather than the fact that UPS is an adjective. For example, you would say 'an uninspiring truck'.

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blfenton

It all has to do with the "sound" of the beginning of the word rather than the actual letter.

eg - "an" hour because in this case the H sounds like an O. But it's "a" hit because it sounds like the letter H.

Here's an easy to read link (ie. it isn't a linguistic site :)

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/a-versus-an

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gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

LOL!! It has nothing at all to do with the truck and everything to do with the sound of the word it preceeds!! If it sounds like it starts with a consonant, then you use 'a'. If it sounds like a vowel, then you use 'an'. The 'u' of UPS is heard as a consonant - as matthias very clearly pointed out - so 'a' is the appropriate usage here.

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jim_1 (Zone 9A)

You could also say, "The UPS truck."

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Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)

I suppose I could. I walked by my Hop tree this morning and the Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar had turned brown. So it was a “well, look at this. He is turning into a UPS truck”. The “a” or ”an” was stuck for the rest of the time pulling weeds. So it wasn’t even the real truck.


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morz8

Thank you for the smile Iris, and I'm happy to see someone can think oddly like I do. ;0)

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joyfulguy

And "an Uber driver" - no consonant-type sound at the beginning of the following word, as in "a Yoo Pee Ess" truck.

ole joyful

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Alisande

If you pronounced UPS as ups (as in "ups and downs"), then it would take the an. Although I can't think of a sentence where you would use an ups. :-)

"It was an up and down kind of day" is the best I can come up with.

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Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)

I think the “UPS” when spoken with my accent is still harsher sounding and not as soft as the yoo and it had me confused. Glad you helped me out.

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Jasdip

I love all of the explanations. I never once thought that sounding like a vowel or consonant denotes the a or an. Why do I see 'an hotel' periodically? That's weird.

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Alisande

Not weird, Jasdip. Just wrong. LOL A lot of people and advertising departments--and my local newscasters--could use a good editor.

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socks

If I may hijack, Iris, OK?

What about history, historic?

A history book (that's ok)

But.….

An historic moment, or a historic moment


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Iris S (SC, Zone 7b)

Socks, No problem. Learning moments here!

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matthias_lang

Socks, I have noticed that some people actually drop the "h" sound when saying "an historic moment." So it comes out pronounced, "an 'istoric moment." I think I might have heard "an 'otel" as well.

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chisue

An herb garden -- if you sublimate the 'h'? A herb garden if you don't?

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tete_a_tete

I hear some people pronounce it 'erb, but I say herb. So to me it's a herb garden.

And I agree with 'an historic moment' because I cannot help cutting off the 'h'. Definitely a history book, though. And definitely a hotel.

Just depends on ones pronunciation though, and that's hard to change.

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