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Anonymous:
I thought I'd throw this up for the sake of discussion. Compare the following sentences:

"I received a call from a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent."

"I received a call from an FBI agent."

At first, I was confused as to whether to treat the acronym "FBI" as though it was merely just a representation of the full out "Federal Bureau of Investigation", rather than treating the acronym as though it was an actual word itself. In that context, one might want to argue in favour of "...from a FBI agent."

But, having come to understand that an acronym has become some kind of word itself, I can only expect therefore that "...from an FBI agent" is correct, while "...from a Federal Bureau...." is correct when the acronym is not used in place of the full name.

Duane Aubin
I think you're quite right.
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I agree. Bingo!
New Member30
Right - you choose "a" or "an" according to the initial sound of the acronym, not the actual initial letter. In "FBI," the initial sound is "eff," which begins with a vowel sound.
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Hi,

I have one question regarding acronyms: Following Michael Swan book (Practical English Usage) articles are usually drop in acronyms, considering acronyms the abbreviations that are pronounced as words. So, if 'FBi' is a word, we should write:

I received a call from FBI

instead of:

I received a call from the FBI

Could you comment me this point? for the previous example, the neccessity of the article is clear because of 'agent', but without it I am not so sure.

Jose Vila.

AnonymousI thought I'd throw this up for the sake of discussion. Compare the following sentences:

"I received a call from a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent."

"I received a call from an FBI agent."

At first, I was confused as to whether to treat the acronym "FBI" as though it was merely just a representation of the full out "Federal Bureau of Investigation", rather than treating the acronym as though it was an actual word itself. In that context, one might want to argue in favour of "...from a FBI agent."

But, having come to understand that an acronym has become some kind of word itself, I can only expect therefore that "...from an FBI agent" is correct, while "...from a Federal Bureau...." is correct when the acronym is not used in place of the full name.

Duane Aubin

New Member01
But FBI is not a word, we are saying the individual letters. We are spelling out Eff-bee-eye, not drawling all the sounds into a new word (Fbeye?)

To use a couple of UK examples.

RSPCA. This is pronounced by spelling out the letters, 'Ar, es, pee, cee, ay' as in FBI. 'I received a visit from the RSPCA' is correct.

NACRO. This is pronounced as a single word - 'nacro' not by spelling out the letters 'En, ay, cee, ar, oh' therefore 'I received a visit from NACRO' is correct.
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Anonymous:
I suppose any hard and fast rule is not warranted. Consider that others argued that acronym and abbreviation are not the same thing:
"There is a difference between acronyms and abbreviations. An acronym is usually formed by taking the first initials of a phrase or compounded-word and using those initials to form a word that stands for something. Thus NATO, which we pronounce NATOH, is an acronym for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and LASER (which we pronounce "lazer"), is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. FBI, then, is not really an acronym for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; it is an abbreviation. AIDS is an acronym; HIV is an abbreviation. URL is an abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator (World Wide Web address), but many people pronounce it as "Earl," making it a true acronym, and others insist on pronouncing it as three separate letters, "U * R * L," thus making it an abbreviation. The jury is still out. (I vote for Uncle Earl.)

It appears that there are no hard and fast rules for using periods in either acronyms or abbreviations. More and more, newspapers and journals seem to drop the periods: NAACP, NCAA, etc. Consistency, obviously, is important."

Consider also that the article "the" would be pronounced differently as in "da" and "de" when it precedes different words. We do not spell "the" differently however. It would seem logical to use 'a' in writing except in the most obvious sitaution and leave how it should be pronounced to the reader depending on how s/he chooses to pronounce the word (be it acronym or abbreviation) that follows.
Anonymous:
My personal opinion is to say and write things as unambiguosly as possible. Therefore I prefer to always use "an" before an acronym that is pronounced by spelling the letters. Here is why:

If you were to say, "this is a BSA rule." it could be heard as "this is ABSA rule."
Hi,
My personal opinion is to say and write things as unambiguosly as possible. Therefore I prefer to always use "an" before an acronym that is pronounced by spelling the letters.

Here is why:

If you were to say, "this is a BSA rule." it could be heard as "this is ABSA rule."

An acronym is not pronounced by spelling the letters. Instead, you pronounce the letters as a word, eg naytoe for NATO.

Let''s assume the acronym is BSA, pronounced beeza.
If you want to speak of a rule, you need an article.
eg I want to tell you about a beeza rule.
A native speaker would expect an article, so he would not think you are saying
I want to tell you about abeeza rule.
In such a case, he would expect
I want to tell you about an abeeza rule.

Best wishes, Clive
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