Proper English Question

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Frisco, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. Frisco macrumors 68020

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    #1
    I just texted someone and my wording was, "Call them in an hour." When I looked back at my text according to English rules it should have been "a hour."

    An when the preceding word contains only a vowel is what I was taught.

    But in this situation "an" sounds much more appropriate.

    English gurus chime in please :apple:
     
  2. Nermal Moderator

    Nermal

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    #2
    I'm pretty sure that "an" is correct; I vaguely recall learning about H being a special case. Either way, "a hour" just sounds wrong!

    I believe that this phenomenon is called "euphony".
     
  3. siurpeeman macrumors 603

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    #3
    "an" before a vowel sound, so "an hour" is correct. you wouldn't say an universe, would you?
     
  4. SandboxGeneral, Sep 7, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013

    SandboxGeneral Moderator

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    #4
    I could be wrong, but despite there not being a vowel after the word 'a' and in this case, the word being 'hour', it starts with the sound 'o' as in 'our' and therefore should be preceded by the word 'an.' Otherwise it doesn't sound correct when speaking/reading.
     
  5. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

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    #5
    I believe the H has special rules, as it's a silent letter. But that's a good question about the U in universe though.
     
  6. ravenvii macrumors 604

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    #6
    Both is arguably correct.

    However, you can see the logic easily by simply removing the "h". That leaves ours, which begins with a vowel.

    But again, both is arguably correct, so use what you prefer.
     
  7. Renzatic Suspended

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    #7
    Both are arguably correct per the academic rules of the language, but he'd still want to go with the option that sounds more natural to a native speaker.

    "I'll see you in an hour" sounds a helluva lot less weird than "I'll see you in a hour".
     
  8. Frisco thread starter macrumors 68020

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    #8
    "I'll see you in a hour" sounds like people speak in NJ. Yes I am from NJ, but I don't talk like that.
     
  9. samiwas macrumors 65816

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    #9
    My bigger question: were you telling the person to call a group/company, or just one person? "Call him/her in an hour" would then be correct. ;)
     
  10. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #10
    It could be a case of epicene they or of generic they. Can't tell from the context.

    If it's generic they, its opposite is generic he:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they#Generic_he
    Modern codification of the rule in English can be found in the mid 18th century with Anne Fisher's A New Grammar,[23][24] generic use of the pronoun he has been preferred (but not required) in such constructions by many contemporary grammar and usage books.
    In the 19th century, grammarians in England petitioned the British Parliament to declare gender-indeterminate pronouns as 'he' rather than 'they', which was common usage at the time. [25]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they#Generic_they
    Generic he has been a preference in usage, not a binding grammatical "rule", as Thackeray's use of both forms demonstrates. "The alternative to the masculine generic with the longest and most distinguished history in English is the third-person plural pronoun. Recognized writers have used they, them, themselves, and their to refer to singular nouns such as one, a person, an individual, and each since the 1300s."[29]
     
  11. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #11
    Since the 'a' vs 'an' question seems to be resolved, I'm going to hijack this thread... sorry...

    I decided (for myself) a few years ago that if the gender of a person was unknown then using 'them' was more appropriate than 'him/her'. I think of it as the Schrödinger principle. If the singular person I am referring to could be male or female ('him' or 'her'), then until I know this person is both male and female - and therefore the plural form of the pronoun is appropriate. Once the gender is established then the singular 'him' or 'her' would be used.

    Same thing for the possessive pronoun. In my world it is 'theirs' until it is established whether 'his' or 'hers' is the appropriate possessive.

    Just my own little private campaign to rid us of the very awkward 'his/hers' (hers/his) and the gender priority it reinforces.
     
  12. gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

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    #12
    You should use "a" or "an" according to the pronounciation.

    A uniformed man.
    An uninformed man.

    "Informed" begins with an I, "Uninformed" begins with a U. Some people will disagree whether it is a herb or an herb. When using abbreviations, it is not always clear whether you would read it as a sequence of letters, or words, so there can be disagreement (or the way you write it may dictate the way it is read).

    ----------

    "Euphony" would also be a special case :D
     
  13. Nermal Moderator

    Nermal

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    #13
    Ha! I didn't notice that until you pointed it out! :)
     
  14. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #14
    It depends on the phoneme that begins the word in your particular dialect.
     
  15. Gregg2 macrumors 603

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    #15
    I'll assume that was just a typo. :)

    pronunciation, unless you're pronouncing a noun? ;)


    Well, you can argue anything I suppose, like is vs. are when referring to more than one of something.

    As for the original question, several links in this search can give you not only the generally accepted answer, but also the reason(s) behind it.

    http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt...s&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&p=an vs a grammar
     
  16. SandboxGeneral Moderator

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    #16
    Yup. :eek:
     
  17. Shrink macrumors G3

    Shrink

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    #17
    The whole question of which is correct, "a" or "an" preceding a word beginning with "h", is, or was, unquestionably "an". It is, or was (depending on whether you are a language purist, or more comfortable with less formal usage) a definite grammatical rule. (No source...too lazy!)

    For example, the "rule" is that the phrase should be "an historical event"...but many grammarians assert that the "rule" is dead now, and "a historical event" is just fine.

    It is my understanding that many newspaper and writing style guides no longer insist on the old "rule".

    So if you're a purist (or a stiff necked pedant, like me!), "an" should precede any word starting with an "h". If you are less concerned with carefully applied grammatical rules, then "a" is, sadly :)p), acceptable.
     
  18. SandboxGeneral, Sep 8, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013

    SandboxGeneral Moderator

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    #18
    It's too bad there aren't more people around who care about the written and spoken word and practicing it correctly (occasional mistakes aside). :)
     
  19. chown33 macrumors 604

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    #19
    It's.

    I had to. But only when it's funny.
     
  20. SandboxGeneral Moderator

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    #20
    Haha, I'm glad I put that occasional mistakes clause in there! :D
     
  21. Roller macrumors 68020

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    #21
    "He is an halibut."

    -Monty Python, "Fish License"
     
  22. Shrink macrumors G3

    Shrink

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    #22
    There it is...my definitive Source!;)
     
  23. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #23
    And this is why they say English is the hardest language to learn. :p
     
  24. Scepticalscribe Contributor

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    #24
    Excellent post (and one I agree with).

    Actually, I love threads such as this - and must also confess that I love the arcane mysteries and linguistic historical hangovers still found lurking deep in the grammatical undergrowth of the English language.

    Agree completely.
    Touché - bravo! :D Nicely said - cue a round of applause.
     
  25. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #25
    I ran across this article and thought some folks in this thread might be interested.

    I hesitate to post the PDF to the thread, as I'd likely violate the publisher's claim to some intellectual property. :rolleyes:

    I could share through PM the entire PDF if anyone was so interested---for educational purposes only. What an absurd thing to say about a piece of scholarship...
     

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