+0
Hello,

I heard people pronounce the indefinite article "a" in two different ways. One is - what I consider the standard way - pronounced like the first letter of e.g. "accomplishment" (the phonetic symbol for this is an upside-down "e" but I can't type this here) and the other is pronounced like the first letter of the alphabet [ey].
However, the second pronounciation is not always used but only used in some cases. I could not figure out yet which these cases are.

Can you tell me about these two ways of pronouncing "a" and when they are used?

Regards,
Paul
1 2 3
Comments  
In fast speech, "a" is usually pronounced as "uh", the upside-down "e". The only time I would use "ey" is when I stopped talking to think for a second, then continued on. Basically, if you always say "uh", you're fine.
When reading 'A' individually or when enumerating the articles, you may say /ey/ for 'A', and /ann/ for 'An'. But in normal speech, they're usually reduced to /uh/ and /uhn/.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
great question

I think saying "uh" (or that upside down e sound) is most always going to sound "normal" to American English speakers. But we do use the long a (you spelled it ey) to give a very slightly different meaning.

If I say "I ate "uh" sandwich for lunch", I mean my lunch was a sandwich and not something else for example. If I say "I ate "ey" sandwich for lunch", I mean that today I only had ONE sandwich. (and maybe on other days I have more than one or maybe I wish I had more than one or something of that sort. )

I also think that some people use "ey" more often in more formal settings (I suspect this is a class thing) while other people would think it sounds stiff and awkward. I would have to pay attention to it for a while to figure out the subtle rules of it. I think I am maybe more likely to use "ey" (again, only in formal settings) in front of certain words than others. It may depend on the sound for the word following or it may just be idiomatic.

My suggestion though is to stick with "uh" unless you mean "one".

Of course remember to use "an" in front of words that start with a vowel sound. Emotion: wink Aint English awful!

Personally, the [ey] pronunciation strikes me as an affectation, even though you will occasionally hear the news announcers on television using it. Very grating on the nerves! Emotion: smile

CJ
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Thanks so much for this posting. President Bush makes use of the a (ey) pronunciation in his speeches. It reminds me of a young child who is just learning to read out loud. Example: "Father came home from a (ey)
hard day at the (thee) office." Now, I find it so annoying to hear that President-Elect Obama is treat the indefinite A sound the same way in his speeches. Perhaps this is the (thee) new form of "government speak."
we can pronounce the article "a" as a schwa or as a long a [ey]

we pronounce it as a long a [ey] if we want to add emphasis to a noun, otherwise, we just pronounce it as a schwa

---jacky ^_^
Man... thanks a lot for your link!! And thanks a lot to the guy who published this question... I teach English in Colombia, and I had been looking for this answer long time ago, and now, I think I've been given a great explanation!!
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Show more