There are many phrases we use in our daily writing in conversation, like too cute or to cute, that are not actually proper grammar. The words “a unique or an unique” fall into that same category. Should there be the word “a” or “an” before unique? Most writers get this confused. In this post we’ll teach you how to choose correctly between a or an unique.
Which Is Grammatically Correct: A Unique or An Unique?
This is the same rule that applies to the phrase “an hour or a hour” in writing. You must understand the grammar rules around consonant sounds and vowel sounds in order to choose between “a” & “an” correctly. Just like with the difference between in and within, spelling is very important.
- A Unique – Unique is preceded by the article “a” because the first syllable of “unique” has a consonant sound. Although unique starts beings with a vowel, it is pronounced as if it were spelled “yoo-nique” (consonant sound). There are also words with w as a vowel to be aware of.
- An Unique – You may often see this in writing and hear it in conversation, but using “an” before unique is grammatically incorrect. Words starting with consonant sounds are preceded by “an”.
Takeaway: Pay close attention to whether a word starts with a vowel sound or a consonant sound.
Examples of Using “A Unique”
- A unique individual is someone who stands out from the crowd.
- A unique style is something that is distinctly your own.
- My new job is definitely a unique opportunity.
- A unique perspective is a different way of looking at things.
- My neighbor has a unique pet that I have never seen before.
When To Use A vs An?
There are many tricky spelling rules in the English language, just like knowing is it bare with me or bear with me.
Many writers get tripped up when trying to pick the correct indefinite articles “a” or “an” to precede words. There is a simple rule to avoid making this mistake ever again.
- “A” is used when a word begins with a consonant sound.
- “An” is used before words that start with a vowel sound. For example, you would say that someone is “an annalist or analyst“.
Of course, there are some tricky exceptions to this rule that can confuse writers. The letter “h” can be confusing – “a hotel” starts with a consonant “h” sound, but “an honest person” starts with a vowel “h” sound.
This is because words that begin with a silent “h”, like hour, are preceded by the indefinite article “an”.
Consonants vs Vowels
To really get your head around the importance of this basic grammar rule, you need to understand consonants and vowels.
- Vowels – Vowels are produced by allowing the airflow to flow freely with the mouth more open. The vowels in the alphabet include ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’ and ‘u’. In some cases, ‘y’ and ‘w’.
- Consonants – Consonants are produced by obstructing the airflow when speaking & the mouth is mostly closed. The consonants in the alphabet are all letters that are not vowels!
In order to master all the English spelling rules, you first need to have a firm understanding of vowels & consonants!
Frequently Asked Questions
“A” is the correct answer. “A” precedes words that begin with consonant sounds. If the first sound is a vowel, then start with “an”.
It is correct to say “a unique person”. The indefinite article “a” is used when the word starts with a consonant sound.
It is correct to say “a university” because it does not start with a vowel sound.
It is correct to say “an awesome”. For example, you might tell your wife to “have an awesome day at work!”
It is correct to say “a user”. For example, you might say that “Apple provides a user interface for their customers”.
The Bottom Line
Knowing when to use the indefinite articles “a” and “an” can be confusing. In fact, there are many tricky words in the English language like Freshman & Freshmen or even unto or onto which can be tricky. However, you now know the rules of vowel & consonant sounds. This rule applies to just about every word in the English language. Reemeber to pay close attention to the pronuciation of the words and not the spelling!