An Hour or A Hour - Learn the Differences

vocabulary Oct 27, 2021
An Hour or A Hour

Spelling and pronunciation do not always go hand-in-hand in English.  The way a word is spelt does not always give us an indication of how it is pronounced.  English has a lot of silent letters and it can be difficult to know which letters are silent and which are not.  The pronunciation rule for choosing between the indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an’ relies on the pronunciation of the word that follows and not the spelling of the word that follows. Learning when to pronounce letters and when not to will help improve your English pronunciation skills.    


An Hour

Based on spelling and not pronunciation, it may appear as though ‘a hour’ is the correct form, however, this is incorrect.  The correct form is ‘an hour.’  


What An Hour Means

An hour means one hour.  ‘A’ and ‘an’ are indefinite articles so an hour refers to any hour.  An hour is equal to 60 minutes and there are 24 hours in one day.  


Why Do We Say An Hour?

The ‘h’ at the beginning of ‘hour’ is silent.  If we look at the phonetic spelling of ‘hour’ /aʊr/, we can see that it begins with a vowel sound and not a consonant sound.  All words that start with a vowel sound must be preceded by the indefinite article ‘an.’


Grammar Rules for An Hour 

Grammatically, the indefinite article we use when a word begins with a vowel sound is ‘an.’  This is easy to identify in ‘an apple,’ ‘an umbrella,’ and ‘an elephant.’  However, there are instances when the written form of the word and the way it is pronounced are different and it’s less obvious which indefinite article precedes the word.

For example, some words that are spelled with a vowel in the beginning take ‘a,’ as in ‘a uniform’ and some words that are spelled with a consonant in the beginning take ‘an,’ as in ‘an hour.’  This is because ‘uniform’ starts with a consonant sound and ‘hour’ starts with a vowel sound in spoken English


A Hour

‘A hour’ looks like the correct form when it is written down but it does not sound right when spoken.  The written form must follow the spoken form and not vice versa.  Knowing these rules will improve your English writing skills.  This is true when we are deciding whether to use ‘a’ or ‘an’ with all words.  Focus on the pronunciation of the words instead of the spelling of the words.  


Is It Correct to Say A Hour

‘A hour’ is not correct.  However, not all words that begin with ‘h’ follow this same rule.  It all depends on the pronunciation of the word.


We say:

An honest man;

An hour;

A home;

A horse;

A house.


Some words, like ‘herb,’ are pronounced differently with different accents.  Some English accents pronounce the ‘h’ sound so ‘a herb’ is correct.  Other English accents drop the ‘h’ sound so ‘an herb’ is correct too. 


Is It An Hour or A Hour

‘An hour’ is correct.  We say ‘an hour’ because ‘hour’ is pronounced with a vowel sound in the beginning and the ‘h’ is silent.  We also say ‘an honour’ and ‘a horrible movie’ because the ‘h’ is silent in ‘honour’ and voiced in ‘horrible.’


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