"A" or "An" . What is the correct article?

--history novel
--history professor
--historic moment
--historical novel
--historical document
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Comments  (Page 2) 
I thought the answer to this was going to be simple. When the spelling of a word starts with an h, then we have to see if that h is pronounced or not. If it is the article is a, if not, then it's an. Thus we get an hour but a hotel. Therefore, as the h in history, historical and historic is pronounced, the article should always be a.
However, doing a search in the Internet we find that the balance in favour of a is not as marked as we might think.
a history    1,3000,000,000         an history  1,050,000,000 
a historic   29,300,000               an historic    27,100,000 
a historical   65,100,000            an historical   56,600,000
 A wins out over an in every case, but not as markedly as I would have expected. I'd love to hear what other people think.
If I were being pedantic I would say that an history is the result of sloppiness, with people dropping their Hs, but I don't believe this is the case.
Have just tried testing both versions with word spell check and it accepts them both...
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It is always 'an', due to something that I learned at some point.
pieanneIt's always 'a', since the 'h' of 'history' is pronounced.
How very misleading of you. I'd suggest that anybody interested in the answer to this question should read the whole thread. They'll have a clearer picture.
AnonymousIf you are American, however, you'll need to get a language first before you start debating grammar points.
Not a nice thing to say, uh? Emotion: shake Emotion: zip it
Well Howard...

This is one my my most fervent pet peaves... I can't stand when I hear newscasters, politicians and even academics trying to sound ed-ja-ma-kated by using "an history" instead of "a history".

What you report above is exactly what I recollect not only from gradeschool English teaching, but from foreign language as well.

It turns out that we borrow many words from French. And they borrow words from old English.

In French, I believe the 'h' is silent in nearly all words starting with 'h'. For example: hopital is French for hospital. The 'h' is silent, so that the word is pronounced, <au'-pee-tahl">. Therefore, the French apply their articles with the same rule -- if the word begins with a vowel sound, it needs a consonant sound. The French wither drop a vowel or add a consonant as necessary.

So instead of saying "la hopital", they use "l'hopital", likewise "an hopital" instead of "a hopital".

We borrow the word for history almost directly from French as well.

histoire == history

As usual in French, the 'h is silent, leading to :

"l'histoire", "an histoire", etc.

Now as to what happened, this is where I become inconsolable...
Somewhere deep in the U.S.A., some pedantic college sophomore somewhere, taking French and history at the same time, really thought they had something new to show us all. For some reason it caught on like wildfire...

Just so you know, there are little touchees that English can claim against French.
French borrows from the old English word for knife. They borrowed the word phonetically however, knowing only how to sound out the letters, and their word for a pocket knife becomes -- "canif", pronounced: kah-neef ' ... They didn't know the 'k' was silent.. hee hee..

@Mike. Actually the K did not used to be silent but pronounced ch as in Scottish loch, thus Knife was pronounced as it was said, same with Knight and in fact they both used to be spelled Chnife and Chnight as well as with a K but when printing presses came in the ch fassed out and the K was eventually dropped. So the French are right.

On subject: An Historical ('istorical) is correct as the h was historically dropped as in an hotel ('otel) or an history ('istory) of Britain a modern example of where the h is always dropped (bar a few middle class people) is an hour ('our). Personally I say 'istorical and 'otel but history.

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history orignally comes from french "histoire."

and strangely enough the french don't like to say "h" - especially at the beginning of a word.
They too have an "a or an" rule which is rather "to pronounce or not to pronounce the /n/ sound with their indefinite articles "un" and "une."

When /history/ first came over to us english peoples it originally got the /an/ as the /h/ was not pronounced.
It's actually up to the speaker/writer, "a historical" or "a history" is definitely used more often than "an historical" or "an history", but grammatically both are actually acceptable.
And ask if he has seen a baseball player get "an hit"
Emotion: wink
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An hissing sound
An hard day's night
An happy time
An hole in the ground
An house
An hypothetical situation
I don't give an hoot!

Now, is it still "an historic moment", or "a historic moment"?Emotion: wink
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