Meaning of A in English

a 1

/euh/ ; when stressed /ay/ , indefinite article.

1. not any particular or certain one of a class or group: a man; a chemical; a house.

2. a certain; a particular: one at a time; two of a kind; A Miss Johnson called.

3. another; one typically resembling: a Cicero in eloquence; a Jonah.

4. one (used before plural nouns that are preceded by a quantifier singular in form): a hundred men (compare hundreds of men ); a dozen times (compare dozens of times ).

5. indefinitely or nonspecifically (used with adjectives expressing number): a great many years; a few stars.

6. one (used before a noun expressing quantity): a yard of ribbon; a score of times.

7. any; a single: not a one.

[ ME; orig. preconsonantal phonetic var. of AN 1 ]

Usage . In both spoken and written English the choice of A 1 or AN 1 is determined by the initial sound of the word that follows. Before a consonant sound, A is used; before a vowel sound, AN: a book, a rose; an apple, an opera. Problems arise occasionally when the following word begins with a vowel letter but actually starts with a consonant sound, or vice versa.

Some words beginning with the vowel letter u and all words beginning with the vowel letters eu are pronounced with a beginning consonant sound, as if the first letter were y : a union; a European. Some other spellings that begin with a vowel letter may also stand for an initial consonant sound: a ewe; a ewer. The words one and once and all compounds of which they are the first element begin with a w sound: a one-room apartment; a once-famous actor.

The names of the consonant letters f, h, l, m, n, r, s, and x are pronounced with a beginning vowel sound. When these letters are used as words or to form words, they are preceded by AN: to rent an L-shaped studio; to fly an SST. The names of the vowel letter u and the semivowel letters w and y are pronounced with a beginning consonant sound. When used as words, they are preceded by A: a U-turn; The plumber installed a Y in the line.

In some words beginning with the letter h, the h is not pronounced; the words actually begin with a vowel sound: an hour; an honor. When the h is strongly pronounced, as in a stressed syllable at the beginning of a word, it is preceded by A: a history of the Sioux; a hero sandwich. (In former times AN was used before strongly pronounced h in a stressed first syllable: an hundred. ) Such adjectives as historic, historical, heroic, and habitual, which begin with an unstressed syllable and often with a silent or weakly pronounced h, are commonly preceded by AN, especially in British English.

But the use of A rather than AN is widespread in both speech and writing: a historical novel; a habitual criminal. Hotel and unique are occasionally preceded by AN, but this use is increasingly old-fashioned. Although in some dialects AN has yielded to A in all cases, edited writing reflects usage as described above.

a 2

/euh/ ; when stressed /ay/ , prep.

each; every; per: ten cents a sheet; three times a day.

[ orig. ME a, preconsonantal var. of ON (see A- 1 ); confused with A 1 ]

a 3

/euh/ , prep.

Pron. Spelling. a reduced, unstressed form of of (often written as part of a single, unhyphenated word): cloth a gold; time a day; kinda; sorta.

[ ME; unstressed preconsonantal var. of OF 1 ]

a 4

/euh/ , auxiliary verb.

Pron. Spelling. a reduced, unstressed form of auxiliary have following some modals, as might, should, could, would, and must (usually written as part of a single, unhyphenated word): We shoulda gone. Cf. of 2 .

[ ME; phonetic var. of HAVE ]

a 5

/euh, a, ah/ , pron.

1. Brit. Dial.

2. he.

3. she.

4. it.

5. they.

6. I.

[ ME a, ha ]


are; ares.

Symbol, Logic.

See universal affirmative .

Random House Webster's Unabridged English dictionary.      Полный английский словарь Вебстер - Random House .