Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Unique or An Unique?

Just another note about the challenges of the English language. Why "a unique..." rather than "an unique..."? When a "u" word is pronounced as though it begins with a "y" (yoo nique), it's treated more like the consonant sound of the y. So, a university, an umbrella, a usual day, an unusual day.

99 comments:

john baker said...

thank you very much mr. elf and google. I've been fretting over this for the past 97 seconds and, voila, its solved--at least you've convinced me.

Motoma said...
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Anonymous said...

this for such a short & simple snippet.

Anonymous said...

Thanks.

Surya said...

This is a unique post that is an unusually useful.

Mike said...

I was amazed to get an immediate response to the request "unique, a or an?" thanks for resolving a question that I have had for much longer than 97 seconds!

Virinder Urf Funda-Mentor said...

Thanks for ur help... This is a question that stumps many...

Michael said...

lol i was just wondering that too; thanks a lot! it prevented so much mental anguish haha.

Muriel said...

Thank you! I was just writing a paper for my english class, and was unsure about this. =) not anymore!!!!!

Matti said...

Thank you Mr. Elf!
This was an useful posting!
:)

Elf said...

And that was certainly a unorthodox way of responding. ;-) Now stop it, or we'll confuse people!

Anonymous said...

@Matti

"This was an useful posting."

You are getting me confused again!

Freddy Van Dohl said...

Nice! now I finally get it :D

aj said...

thanks man

quite a unique way of answering that question

cheers

Anonymous said...

And another... big thank you!

Rachel said...

I was writing a memo just now, I wrote "an unique" and I just stopped and looked at it and realized it was wrong. My whole world had been turned upside down. Then I found this explanation and all is right with the world.

Thank you Elf.

Elf said...

So glad that people are finding this helpful. I figured that if one person asked me then there must be lots of others who wondered about it.

Puneet Goel said...

Yes it is "a unique" just like it is "an hour"!

hemanth said...

Damn! I didn't even know such a rule existed. Thanks a ton!

Rosie said...

Thank goodness, problem solved. Thanks for the help!

Molested said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molested said...

I blew the first comment, here's the one that works:

Google is my friend, whoever is pointed at as the problem-solver by Google, my friend, is also my friend - especially if it actually resolves my issues.

Given the logic of the "Friend of a friend is also a friend" (resulting in a peculiar instance of a paradox, if 'friend of friend' = 'friend', how is 'friend of friend' not in the first given group 'friend'?) then you are indeed my friend. You solved my issue - and if this would've remained unsolved and typed in wrong - it would have had consequences, thank you for being so concise and brief!

Regards,
Molested
Designer

Elf said...

As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend...in need. All depends on how you parse it.

-ellen

Junior said...

Thank you for this. Simple and direct. SCORE! I finally found an answer to this ridiculously simple question!

vinko said...

Cheers - saved me at least a few minutes of internal argument.

enlyn said...

thanks mr. you are worthy to be no. 1 on google search with 'a unique' keyword :)

Jenny said...

thanks you so much. i was writing an essay and had no idea

Anonymous said...

Wow, I wasn't sure what it was so I googled "a unique" and "an unique" separately to see which would bring up more results. Who knew that your post would be the first result to pop up.

Elf said...

Cool!

Kimberley said...

Wow, I typed an unique for an! essay and then Word grammar check said it was wrong. But I always thought that the rule was: an = when a word starts with a,e,i,o,u.

But then I figured, yeah it does sound strange. I googled your blog and it turned out that both grammar check and my feelings were correct. Thanks for explaining it!

Greetz from Holland

tkhisan said...

This is the one I wanted to know. My ploblem was solved. Thanks!

Joshua said...

Thank you for your concise and informative information.

isik said...

Thank so much for putting it accross so simple and convincingly.

caroline said...

Thanks; you've saved me countless hours of procrastination over this :)

BrainOrb said...

"Blogger Surya said...

This is a unique post that is an unusually useful."

The correct is: This is a unique post that is unusually useful.

Don't use articles with adjectives and adverbs, please, just with nouns.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot!

thechaconazi said...

what about before acronyms? would it be an or a (for example) MP3 ? or would it vary by sound?

Elf said...

Excellent follow-up question. It's based on the way the abbreviation is pronounced. So if you pronounce MP as "mip" it would be "a MP". If you pronounce MP as "em pee", it would be "an MP." (I don't know of anyone who pronounces that particular one--MP3--as "mip 3", but it was a good example for something that COULD be pronounced in two different ways.)

Aman Chawla said...

Short and precise.
Thank you.

Aman Chawla said...

Short and precise.
Thank you.

Daniele Bazzano said...

Straight and to the point. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Surya: - "This is a unique post that is an unusually useful."

Brainorb: - The correct is: This is a unique post that is unusually useful.


This is a unique post that is an unusually useful one -- is also correct?
or
This is a unique post WHICH is an unusually useful one?

Anonymous said...

Muchas Gracias!!!

Elf said...

THAT or WHICH: Excellent question. So I just created a new post on that topic. Hope it's clear enough. Let me know if it makes sense or if you have other questions!

Yossi said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks xD

Anonymous said...

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Thanks

Anonymous said...

thanks very much :-)

Fabiano said...

Cool! One more I`ve learned. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

interesting, I was intrigued by the ortographic correction suggested and decided to google it, didn't know about that one. Regards from Brazil.

Anonymous said...

True that. I was not sure either. "an unique" does not sound right

Anonymous said...

was confused with 'an' or 'a' unique, googled it, and here it is. thx a lot

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic info! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

so much praise!!!!!!!!!

Elf said...

Wish I could think of posts that are this useful all the time! :-)

Anonymous said...

tanks buabe

Vasiliy said...

Thank you very much for the explanation!

Jamal Afroz said...

Thanks ELF,

I just wanted to be clear on a unique or an unique...
You finally convinced me...

Anonymous said...

I found this site using [url=http://google.com]google.com[/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you!

Sorry for offtopic

Anonymous said...

i can't believe that on my first google search for 'a unique' i found your page! Great tip - thank you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I just got confused about this for like 20 seconds. Thank you

ChloƩ said...

Thanks a lot! That helped!

:) said...

nice post... u have no idea how usful this was

TechBasix said...

Thanx! I knew what sounded right but wasn't quite sure!

Jeff said...

But what's interesting here is that a grammatical rule follows phonetics and common usage rather than grammatical formalism. This makes it seem slippery and vague to me——a commendation for the dictum: "if it sounds right, then use it."——but then I suppose common usage is behind most of our grammatical rules (which would make them not rules at all, but rather constantly evolving rules of thumb.)

Elf said...

Jeff, this is no different from how one refers to acronyms/abbreviations. For example, "an HTML document" vs "a HTML document." If we pronounced it "HITmil," for example, it would be "a HTML document," but we don't, we pronounce it "aitch tee em ell," so its initial component is a vowel sound "ai...", hence "an HTML doc." Neither of these are inconsistent for the rules of the rest of our language: Words that start with a vowel sound (anteater, emu, impala, octopus, undergarment) take "an" and those that start with a consonant sound (begonia, carnival, unit, etc.) take "a". I don't think anyone would argue that it should be "an unit."

I *would* argue that we have at any time a set of valid grammar rules. But, yes, they evolve, just like traffic laws have evolved to encompass the way we drive. The fact that they evolve with usage doesn't make them merely "guidelines" instead of "laws."

Elf said...

And, I should add, these rules are no different from what is seen in some other languages--the correct form is based on the sound of the following word. For example, in french, le or la become l' before vowel sounds.

Anonymous said...

I did know that it was 'a unique' but wanted to know why as I needed to convince someone :-). Your post solved the problem. Thanks for the explanation. It must feel great to see that a post in 2005 is still being referred in 2010. Kudos to you!

From India

Anonymous said...

The writer of wordwhirled.blogspot.com has written a superior article. I got your point and there is nothing to argue about. It is like the following universal truth that you can not disagree with: There is no greater personal triumph than filling your tank with more litres of fuel than you have ever achieved before. I will be back.

GLOSYZ TECH said...

Thanks for your explaination

philiaxxmex3 said...

Thank you! I have a book report due tomorrow and I was completely at a loss!

Anonymous said...

thank you

skybirds said...

Thanks a lot for this information. I really got benefit of it.

Anonymous said...

yhx :)
very clear

Anonymous said...

Habeis puesto tanto gracias que no se sabe cual es la respuesta, pesados! ¬¬

Anonymous said...

haha, you have no idea how long I've been wondering this...

M. Monroe said...

five years later and still useful! Thanks!

Too Tired to Think said...

Thank you, I should have known this, but being that is late and I've been working on a Biology paper for the past six hours or so I'm starting to lose my mind...Hence my rambling.
Thanks for clearing up this little dilemma.

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Anonymous said...

Sometimes it amazes me how after 28 years of speaking this language I always seem to find something new. Thanks for the help!

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant, thanks from Paris
Jean

fuzzy said...

helps quite a but. I never knew that

Carl Fuentes said...

nice explanation... I never really thought of this before.

chances

Lish said...

Excellent explanation. Thank you very much!

Glen said...

It is funny how when you write or speak "a unique" vs. "an unique" it is fairly instinctual to know which one is correct. But being a person who always seeks out understanding, I am elated to find a great explanation. Thank you Mr. Elf. Now I'm off to explore why it is "an hour" and not "a hour". - LOL

Elf said...

"An hour" not "a hour"--because once again it starts with a vowel sound ("hour" starting sound is the same as "our" or "ow"). Hence, an hour.

Anonymous said...

Greetings,

I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at www.blogger.com.

May I use some of the information from your post above if I give a link back to your site?

Thanks,
Peter

Elf said...

I'm responsible for wordwhirled.blogspot.com, not the whole www.blogger.com. Yes you may use some of this if you point back to here.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kojack said...

thanks, this is very helpful

Anonymous said...

merci beacoup

Elf said...

a votre service!

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Elf said...

Sorry, folks, I'm turning off comments on this post; I have to clear spam almost daily now.