Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Food for thought
Thread poster: Stéphanie Denton

Stéphanie Denton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:03
French to English
+ ...
Apr 10, 2011

So, I'm sat here, in the middle of a translation, and something keeps cropping up that has made me wonder:

Why do we say 'a' unique instead of 'an' unique? (even writing that feels wrong?)

This may seem like a silly post, but I can't get my head around it. We say 'an' for pretty much everything else 'an' unwanted present, 'an' unexpected guest...

Please feel free to laugh at me. And for those who've read my previous posts, NO, I'VE NOT BEEN ON THE WINE AGAINicon_razz.gif


 

David Russi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
Apparently you are not the first one to wonder... Apr 10, 2011

This sounds plausible:

A Unique or An Unique?
Just another note about the challenges of the English language. Why "a unique..." rather than "an unique..."? When a "u" word is pronounced as though it begins with a "y" (yoo nique), it's treated more like the consonant sound of the y. So, a university, an umbrella, a usual day, an unusual day.
http://wordwhirled.blogspot.com/2005/12/unique-or-unique.html


 

opolt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:03
English to German
+ ...
Because the "u" is pronounced as a consonant Apr 10, 2011

The "/j/", viewed as a phoneme, constitutes a consonant, even though it's not written in this case (pronunciation like in "you"):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_pronunciation#Consonants

The pronunciation of "unique" is /junik/, of course. By contrast, in "unwanted", "unexpected", the "u" is pronounced as a vowel.

The rule says that you should use an(!) "an" only when the article is followed by a word beginning with a vowel. So should be "a US soldier", etc.

That's all there is to it, really :-] Or at least that's what I learned at schoolicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2011-04-10 22:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-04-10 22:28 GMT]


 

Suzan Hamer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:03
English
+ ...
Because Apr 10, 2011

the choice of “a” or “an” is determined by the way the word would be read aloud.
The word "unique" doesn't start with a "u" sound but with a "y" sound as in "you" or "young".


 

Stéphanie Denton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:03
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Going to the fridge to get that wine and drown my shame! Apr 10, 2011

I can't believe that I did not know this! It makes perfect sense.

Definitely feel silly now!


 

Jean-Pierre Artigau
Canada
Local time: 15:03
English to French
+ ...
In French too Apr 10, 2011

Have you ever wondered why in French we say "le onze avril" (instead of "l'onze avril), le onzième, etc.

Jean-Pierre


 

opolt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:03
English to German
+ ...
Makes perfect sense, Stéphanie ... Apr 10, 2011

... given that the /j/ is among the group of "palatal approximant consonants" ... so that should go down well with a nice bottle of Valdepeñas I guessicon_wink.gif

Don't be too afraid, it happens to everyone once in a while -- but not everyone dares to ask in a public forum :-]


 

Faruk Atabeyli  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 22:03
English to Turkish
+ ...
The other way around Apr 10, 2011

We say "an hour", not "a hour"

 

Faruk Atabeyli  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 22:03
English to Turkish
+ ...
And then there are aberrations Apr 10, 2011

Is it "A historic site" or is it "an historic site"?

 

opolt  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:03
English to German
+ ...
It should be "a historic" ... Apr 10, 2011

... at least that's what I believe :-], given that (again) the /h/ counts as a consonant (see Wikipedia link provided by me above).

So in my book this one doesn't count as an aberration (though I'm sure there are some exceptions to the rule -- only that I don't remember any right now).

PS: Found this via the Wiki phonology page quoted above, for everybody's enjoyment (scroll down a bit). Caution, to be taken in small doses:
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/vangogh/555/Spell/chaos.html

[Edited at 2011-04-10 23:48 GMT]


 

Ariela Gonzalez

Local time: 15:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
It has to do with the sound and not the spelling Apr 11, 2011

Stéphanie Denton wrote:

So, I'm sat here, in the middle of a translation, and something keeps cropping up that has made me wonder:

Why do we say 'a' unique instead of 'an' unique? (even writing that feels wrong?)

This may seem like a silly post, but I can't get my head around it. We say 'an' for pretty much everything else 'an' unwanted present, 'an' unexpected guest...

Please feel free to laugh at me. And for those who've read my previous posts, NO, I'VE NOT BEEN ON THE WINE AGAINicon_razz.gif


In "unique" the "iu" is a strong sound while in "unwanted, etc" the sound is not "iu", it's "anwanted" so it needs "an" before so that the 2 "as" don't "collide".


 

Ariela Gonzalez

Local time: 15:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
That's exactly what I meant Apr 11, 2011

opolt wrote:

The "/j/", viewed as a phoneme, constitutes a consonant, even though it's not written in this case (pronunciation like in "you"):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_pronunciation#Consonants

The pronunciation of "unique" is /junik/, of course. By contrast, in "unwanted", "unexpected", the "u" is pronounced as a vowel.

The rule says that you should use an(!) "an" only when the article is followed by a word beginning with a vowel. So should be "a US soldier", etc.

That's all there is to it, really :-] Or at least that's what I learned at schoolicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2011-04-10 22:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-04-10 22:28 GMT]

This is a very good phonetic explanation.


 

Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:03
Chinese to English
+ ...
depends on whether the h is pronounced Apr 11, 2011

In “an hour”, the “h” in “hour” is always silent. So “hour” begins with a vowel sound, and so we say “an hour”.

In “a historic site”, the “h” in “historic” is (supposed to be) pronounced. So “historic” begins with a consonant sound, and so we say “a historic site”. That said, some people do say “an historic site”, so I wouldn’t say it’s wrong…

[Edited at 2011-04-11 03:03 GMT]


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:03
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
In French... Apr 11, 2011

Why is it "le hibou" when for almost every other word beginning with "h" it is "l'h..."?

 

JH Trads  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:03
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
In French Apr 11, 2011

Jack Doughty wrote:

Why is it "le hibou" when for almost every other word beginning with "h" it is "l'h..."?


Generally speaking and very simply put, for words starting with "h", if their origin is Nordic or Germanic, then you will say "le/la h...", but if their origin is Latin (or Greek), you would have "l'h...". There can be of course many more subtleties and exceptions. An example:

La hanche

L'habileté


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Food for thought

Advanced search






Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »
BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search