"A European OR An European" - Correct English Usage?

"A European OR An European" - Correct English Usage?

Let's cut to the chase. The correct answer is "A European". 

Here are few correct English sentences that use words 'a European':

  • "She always dreamed of becoming a European tour guide, sharing the continent's rich history with travelers from around the world."

  • "He's reading a book by a European author, hoping to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective."

  • "They're planning a trip to a European country next summer; they're particularly interested in exploring Italy."

Now let's understand why we prefixed it with 'A' and not 'An'. 

Understanding the Rules

Before we jump to the specific case of "European", let's remind ourselves of the general rule concerning 'a' and 'an'. These are known as indefinite articles and are used before nouns when the exact identity of the noun is not known.

  1. 'A' is used before words that begin with a consonant sound.

  2. 'An' is used before words that start with a vowel sound.

Note the emphasis on 'sound'. It's not about the letter with which the word starts, but the sound that starts the word. 

For instance, we say "an hour" and not "a hour", because 'hour' begins with a vowel sound, the silent 'h' making 'hour' sound like it starts with 'o'. 

Similarly, we say "a university" and not "an university", because 'university' is pronounced with a leading 'juː' sound, which is a semivowel.

Case in Point: A European or An European?

Now, let's address the million-dollar question: "A European" or "An European"?

Applying the rule we just learned, we should say "a European". Why? Because 'European' begins with a 'juː' sound (similar to 'university'), which is a semivowel sound. 

So despite the first letter of 'European' being a vowel, the sound is what determines the article, and hence, it's "a European".

Common Mistakes and Misconceptions

The 'a' vs. 'an' rule often leads to several common mistakes due to misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Letter-based Misconceptions: As previously mentioned, the choice between 'a' and 'an' is not based on the initial letter of the following word, but rather the initial sound. This is the root cause of errors like "an European" or "a hour".

Regional Pronunciation Differences: Sometimes, regional variations in pronunciation may lead to confusion.

For instance, in some regional accents, the word 'herb' is pronounced with a silent 'h' (making it sound like 'erb'), which would make "an herb" appropriate in those cases. However, in accents where the 'h' in 'herb' is pronounced, "a herb" would be correct.

Confusion with Acronyms: When it comes to acronyms, the rule applies to the sound of the first letter of the acronym, not the word it stands for. Hence, it's "an FBI agent" (F sounds like 'eff', a vowel sound) and "a NASA scientist" (N sounds like 'en', a consonant sound).

Therefore, the correct usage is "a European" and not "An European". I hope it's crystal clear now.


  • Ramani Aswath
    Ramani Aswath
    That is right.
    An undersecretary in a US department.
    Even if the firstletter is a consonant but has a vowel pronunciation 'an' is correct.
    e.g.: An LCD screen.
    I read this thread yesterday but could only understand the 'European' is preceded by 'a' and not 'an'. This question came in GATE today. I was going to skip it but suddenly remembered this discussion. I took a chance and it paid off 👍
  • avii
    I hope biggie is not one of the people who set GATE papers 😛

You are reading an archived discussion.

Related Posts

The Lord of computers (Ganapati) should not neglet His original Wagon (Vahan?) for the new fangled enticement:
Russian Yandex has just taken over Microsoft's Bing to become the world's 4th largest search engine. The world's leading search engines are as follows - Google : 65.2% Baidu :...
Y Combinator has started accepting applications for their summer 2013 funding cycle. Interest startups may apply to the program and get access to world's leading investors, VC companies, experts. Y...
Travelocity, once one of the leading travel portals has shut down their India specific website. Company's management seems to have shifted their focus on 11 US states and about 10...
what is buck converter? And tell me the ON &OFF state equations?