General Writing and Grammar Help/a versus an

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Question
Which is more correct? "a half an hour" or "a half a hour"? An hour is a unit of time and isn't therefore refering to a particular hour. Are they equally acceptable? The latter sounds less natural and I heard it in a comedy routine and wasn't sure if the usage wasn't just for effect.

Answer
James,

Since the h in hour is pronounced soft, a half an hour would be correct. Rule: use a with hard sounding nouns (e.g.) knife, sword, kitchen, policeman, piano, or book.  Use an with softer beginning nouns like angel, opportunity, hour, and example.

A half an hour follows the rule, thus is correct. A half hour would also be correct, but a half a hour is a violation.

I hope that makes this clear.


Jerry Leone

General Writing and Grammar Help

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Jerry Leone

Expertise

I`ve taught writing or some aspect of the English language for nearly 35 years. I can answer nearly any question on grammar, usage or meanings of words above dictionary usage. An avid crossword fan and writer, I can also answer questions about business presentations and resumes.

Experience

I have worked with words all my life as a teacher of the language and as an amateur and professional writer. Communication is a vital force in my life and everyone else's.

Organizations
Sigma Delta Chi, NY Press Association, NY Publishers Association

Education/Credentials
BA in English from the University of Buffalo, MEd in English from SUNY Buffalo, MA in English Literature from SUNY Buffalo. Course work in Journalism from Syracuse Univ., in Linguistics from Rutgers Univ. and Journalism from Univ. of Texas and Ohio Univesrity.

Awards and Honors
Chancellor's Award for Excellence Teaching SUNY, Distinguished Teaching Award SUNY Morrisville, Who's Who in American Journalism Education

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