There’s a very simple rule for whether to use “a historic” or “an historic”: It’s always “a historic.”
Let’s take a look at why – after all, understanding rules makes them much easier to remember!
The Indefinite Article: A and An
When we use nouns (naming words), we often use “the,” “a,” or “an” with them. “The,” “a,” and “an” are known in grammar as articles.
“The“ is known as a definite article and is used to specify a particular noun. For example,
The car was traveling very quickly.
Here, we’ve specified one particular car.
A car was traveling very quickly.
This time, the reader won’t know which particular car we’re talking about.
How to Decide Whether to Use “A” or “An”
This all depends on how we pronounce the word immediately following “a” or “an.”
If the next word starts with a hard sound (usually a consonant), we use “a.”
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If the next word starts with a soft sound (usually a vowel), we use “an.”
Often, there are adjectives between an article and a noun, so we always focus on the word immediately following the article.
A lorry caused the crash.
An orange lorry caused the crash.
The Special Case of “H”
In some words that start with the letter “h,” we can hear the “h” sound, for example, historic, hotel, hat, and hard. In these, and all other words that begin with an audible “h,” we use “a.”
a historic building
a hard mattress
a hotel in New York
But in others, we can’t hear the “h” sound, for example, honest, hour, heir, and honor. In these, and all other words that start with a silent “h,” we use “an.”
an honest man
an hour or two later
an heir to a fortune
it’s an honor to meet you
One word starting with “h” to be wary of is “herb.” In British English, the “h” is sounded, but in American English, it’s silent.
An herb is American
A herb is British
● The rule for “a historic” or “an historic” is: It’s always “a historic.”
● Focus on the word immediately following the indefinite article (“a” or “an”). If it starts with a hard sound, usually a consonant, use “a.” If it starts with a soft sound, usually a vowel or a silent “h,” use “an.”
● Learning English can be tricky. If you’d like our experts to check that you’ve used “historic,” “a,” or “an” correctly in your writing, get in touch!