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AstroChuck's avatar

Why is it An Historic... but it's A History?

Asked by AstroChuck (37461points) March 17th, 2011 from iPhone

I consider myself somewhat knowledgable in regards to grammar, but this one has always stumped me. Perhaps one of you jellies can give me an history of this rule.

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9 Answers

erichw1504's avatar

This article may help you understand more.

Both a historic and an historic are correct.

Shegrin's avatar

It stems from the British pronunciation. In the basic rules of Romance Languages, if the “h” is silent, you fill in with the “an.” They say “an *istoric.” Americans say, “an historic,” which makes it sound incorrect. It isn’t incorrect, but it can be annoying if overused.

Zaku's avatar

This annoys the ‘eck out of me… to write it with the same (Cockney?) accent which I’d need to use to make “an ‘istoric” sound ok. It does sound incorrect, to me, unless you don’t pronounce the h. And not pronouncing the h makes me laugh, because it sounds like a bad ‘ollywood movie accent. It’s a rule with a phonetic sense to it, which therefore sounds senseless if it doesn’t match the sound.

However many smart and educated people use “an historic” and pronounce the h, and say it’s the correct way. Which irks me too.

gailcalled's avatar

Classical Greek had either smooth or rough breathing before each consonant. That’s the origin.
Why that was I cannot say.

Aspirated h

anartist's avatar

The silent “h” when an historic is said, same an “an hour”—like the French “haricots verts”

What are haricots verts? French green beans yum.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

In “British English” it’s pronounced “istoric”, so using “an” before it sounds proppah.

In “American English” it’s pronounced “historic”, so using “a” before it sounds proper.

It all depends on who’s saying it.

dxs's avatar

I say “a historic” and “a history”, but I feel that anything that starts with a vowel sound, whether actually starting with a vowel or not (i.e: an x-ray) uses “an” while consonant sounds use “a”. H is interchangeable depending on the sound of the h. AN hour, but A helicopter—The H is silent in hour but heard in helicopter. This, of course, is all opinionated and based off of what I say and have heard commonly used.

josie's avatar

I don’t know.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

“An historic” is awkward to pronounce, and frankly it irritates me to read, although it is grammatically acceptable. “A historic” is preferable.

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