There has been lots of discussion about the difference between 'historic' and 'historical' on the BBC recently. Reporters are beginning to use the terms correctly again. 'historical' refers to any event or events that happened a while ago while 'historic' refers to an event or place that has left a mark on history.
It's actually a natural phenomenon called H-dropping, and it's been a feature of certain English dialects for a very long time. But since it's mainly prevalent in working-class accents, it's also typically very much frowned upon by people in higher social classes. Cockney is the typical English example - some variants of it drop virtually every single initial h. My Fair Lady is chock-full of it - and Wiktionary even has an appendix dedicated to 'omophones that occur in H-dropping dialects:
So it's definitely a real thing - but it doesn't occur everywhere, so it's quite easy as a native English speaker to go one's entire life without hearing it. :)
My observation is that the dropping of the h in speech isn't always directly related to the choice of an.
I worked in the East End of London for several years and witnessed a lot of dropped h's. Sometimes, this was paired with the non-standard use of an, but not always.
For example, I heard a 'orrible day as much as an 'orrible day.
The dropped Cockney h seems to be natural and born of expedience, whereas the dropped h in the US, on the other hand, often appears to be a deliberate affectation. This is very much a person by person thing, however.
It's interesting that one instance of the dropped h is seen as lower class, whilst others apparently employ it in an attempt to distinguish themselves by elevation.
An interesting discussion, anyway.
It very much is, and I absolutely agree that it can vary quite a lot on a personal basis. Funnily enough, the best example I've found in popular media is probably Willie Garvin, who exhibits dialectally correct h-dropping which is also pattern-consistent across books and comics. :)
The same point arose in the Dutch course. You and the people there are correct, of course. We are not here to learn English. It is still annoying when correct English is not accepted.
By the way, the Dutch course got it wrong - at the time at least - and you have got it right.
Native english speaker here! "an historic" is technically the "most correct" however very few people use it day to day. Most likely used in academic writing and official documents.
But like everyone else has said, don't worry about english if you're here to learn swedish! You're already doing an incredible job!! ♡
Dictionaries go out of date as soon as they are published. No one person or one thing is infallible. As a descriptivist linguist, I subscribe to the idea that there is no "correct way" to use language. Language is a tool for communication, as long as meaning is communicated, it doesn't matter how the tool is used. The argument over what is "right or wrong" is almost arbitrary. If we spent too much time worrying about "correct" English we would still be speaking Old English. But that didn't happen. And it never would happen. Because people are innovative and creative, and change the ""rules" of language to more effectively use it as a tool.
Of course, when learning a foreign language, we must learn some rules, so that we can use the tool effectively. However, such an argument over "an vs a historic" is pointless. While both are perfectly acceptable uses (source: I am English, study linguistics, studied English Language, other native English speakers) both convey the exact same meaning, and the decision to use either "an" or "a" is purely aesthetic, and therefore it is unnecessary to discuss this topic further.
It's only "unnecessary to discuss this topic further" if we accept your subscription to "the idea that there is no 'correct way' to use language" as fact.
Fact, however, it isn't. It's merely your own very modern point of view, which represents a minority stance in the world of language teaching. That hardly seems like grounds for curtailing further discussion.
You also contradict yourself when you then say "when learning a foreign language, we must learn some rules, so that we can use the tool effectively." Why must we learn rules, if we have already determined that "there is no 'correct way' to use language" ? There can be no rules if there is no correct way. And if there are rules, compliance with them must imply correctness, and non-compliance incorrectness.
Linguistic prescription is not at odds with the evolution of language, but it does go some way towards preserving heritage and order. It's also highly debatable whether every change to the language, conscious or evolutionary, can be said to represent a quantifiable instance of people being able to "more effectively use it as a tool". Plenty of changes involve simplification, which, whilst often beneficial, can also introduce ambiguity, for example.
Here are two sources for you, one British and one American, that both firmly recommend the use of a historic over an historic. By definition, they are prescriptive, of course, so presumably carry no weight with you. Nevertheless, others may find them useful.
Here's a third, less prescriptive source to provide some balance. This one subscribes to the notion that a particular usage can be "sufficiently common to be considered correct".
I am 62 and I am a source. This is what we learned in school as grammatically correct, although a little dated now. I am UK born and bred. It was also correct to say an hotel and not a hotel - read older books for this, for example. It is to do with the status of the letter h. Hope that helps.
Americans say words as they are spelt. For instance, many of them pronounce the "w" in "sword", which no Briton does. They are taught they must only use "an" before words that begin with vowels. "H" is not a vowel so they always say and write "a hotel" and "a historic day". In British/English, if a word that begins with an "h" has a French origin the upper classes say and write it in the French way without an "h", and therefore put "an" in front of it. I have lost so many hearts by writing correct English that I now use Americanisms even if they sound awful to me.
It's more complicated than that, I'm afraid.
I'm a Briton who lived in the US for 5 years, and I regularly heard atrocities such as an 'uman tragedy and an historic day from people in my direct environment.
I'm also married to a woman who refers to cooking with an 'erb on an almost daily basis, as do all of her American friends.
It's an 'orrible way to speak, but there you have it.
Regarding "herb," the original English word did not even have an h in it, and even when it was later added, it was a silent letter, just like the h in "hour." Only in the 19th century did Brits begin to pronounce the h in "herb," so it's more arguable that your pronunciation of it is the issue.
However, language naturally evolves over time, so your pronunciation of "herb" is just as valid as the singular "you," which also used to be incorrect.
I thought about it for a hour, and was swayed by such eloquent reasoning. Truly it has been a honour.
Also, there's no acute accent on 'beloved' (if it must be stressed, orthography dictates it should be a grave accent), but being a novelist and a speaker of British English, I am sure this is merely a typographical error resulting from the use of your mobile telephonic device.
It's definitely an oddity, since there are plenty of comments going back stating that it's accepted. At least it only marks it as a typo rather than incorrect, so a minor quibble really.
Honestly, the best part is how many people get worked up (on either side) in the comment thread...
A and An -- is a vexed question for many English speakers and prescriptive rules in English are not always useful, so the best thing to do, is to accept both in this position and not tell native speakers of an 'English' that they have a typo! "A history lecture on an historical event", is possible and a natural thing to say or write for many speakers of English. Tack så mycket
I remember the English grammar lesson at school regarding 'a' v 'an' followed by an 'h' word. The teacher said that it is a throw back to the French invasion, which makes sense. She also said that it is used in writing, 'an hotel, an honour, an historic' but not always necessary in speech or it feels awkward. In the case of 'a historic' v 'an historic day', I would say 'an historic day', because the 'h' is not as strong as the 'h' in e.g., hand, horse, high.
Comment from my husband, a novelist: For anyone interested in a fine point of English language, it should always be "an historic day". This is independent of considerations concerning dropped aitches in speech. The day, being historic, demands emphasis - otherwise it would not be worthy of being called "historic". And so that emphasis is provided by the use of "an".
My husband saw your reply and just laughed. He thinks someone has missed the point.
Thanks for replying.
I've exclusively heard a historic in the UK and occasionally an istoric in the US, but I don't think I've heard the particular combination of an with a voiced h in historic anywhere before.
Hotel is a word I can't recall ever having heard in combination with an, either with a voiced or a silent h.
As far as I can recollect, I've never seen any voiced h word in combination with an printed in the British media, either.
My own background is that I grew up in Cornwall and later moved to London. I moved to Amsterdam in my twenties and later spent five years in the US before moving back to Amsterdam.
I'll google this phenomenon, as I've always believed an in combination with a voiced h to be incorrect. I also always chuckle when my American wife renders the h silently in herb, which sounds absurd to me.
I'm old enough that I still strongly believe that prescription has a place in language teaching. There frequently is a right way and a wrong way, both with spelling and grammar and, to a lesser extent, pronunciation.
I certainly don't subscribe to the general notion of following the masses when the lowest common denominator is known to be incorrect, either for expediency, or to avoid detection as a foreigner or false identification as a snob (which is what often happens in the UK).
More correctly, "an" is used in front of words where you hear a vowel in the beginning, while "a" is used when you hear a consonant.
With a, o, e and i, it's indeed simple: it is always "an". an apple, an orange, an e-mail, an idea However, "u" can take to shapes: it can be either [ju] or [uh]. a union [ju] an umpire [uh]
The letter "h" in front is a ambiguous, because it may sound like something in the middle of a vowel and a consonant, hence the confusion. In French for instance, they do not pronounce it at all. Apparently, the convention is English is that you can use both.
If you are using abbreviations where the letters are distinctly pronounced like in the alphabet, you have to think how the first letter is pronounced. Some consonants are pronounced with a leading vowel, namely F, L, M, N, R and S. These follow the same rule and get "an", since you hear a vowel. an LSD addict, an NBA player, an STD But of course: a NATO employee, since NATO is not pronounced letter per letter