Grammar rule or way of saying

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,928
The general rule is that use of "a" or "an" is driven by the way the following word is pronounced. Thus, "an L" is correct, because "L" is pronounced as if it were spelled "el."

Thus, if you read LED as L.E.D. (i.e., you say the separate letters), the the correct article is "an." If for some reason you pronounce it as a single word (such as the verb, led), then the article would be "a."

John

Edit: How to handle the plurals of acronyms, trademarks (usually none), and units is outside the scope of your question, I believe.
 

beenthere

Joined Apr 20, 2004
15,808
The article goes with the way one pronounces LED. If it is with the letters individually pronounced - L * E * D - then "an" is acceptable. Otherwise, it's a LED (pronounced as "lead").

The fun part is that the pronunciation of "LED" is not set - it's up to the speaker. You can only tell how he does it by the article preceding the acronym.
 

Ratch

Joined Mar 20, 2007
1,068
Alberto,

In this forum, I am continuously reading, refering to leds "AN LED" where it should be "A LED or ONE LED". This is what I have learned, years ago, studying english grammar . Can somebody illuminate me, if in the meantime the english grammar rules have changed or it is just an accepted way of saying.
The best rule I can think of is don't let the consonant "n" in "an" flow into another consonant, and don't let the "a" in "a" flow into a another vowel. So "an LED" is a no-no. By the way, speaking of grammar, "english grammar" is "English grammar" because "English" is a nationality, and is always capitalized in the King's English.

Ratch
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,928
Alberto,



The best rule I can think of is don't let the consonant "n" in "an" flow into another consonant, and don't let the "a" in "a" flow into a another vowel. So "an LED" is a no-no. By the way, speaking of grammar, "english grammar" is "English grammar" because "English" is a nationality, and is always capitalized in the King's English.

Ratch
Sorry, and with all due respect, it's the pronunciation not the spelling that governs, particularly for acronyms. Follow my example of "an L."

John

Edit: Here are two other examples: "an hour" and "a horse."
 

someonesdad

Joined Jul 7, 2009
1,577
The best rule I can think of is don't let the consonant "n" in "an" flow into another consonant, and don't let the "a" in "a" flow into a another vowel.
As someone else mentioned, it's how it sounds when speaking that determines whether 'a' or 'an' are used. Ratch's rule is close, but fails with e.g. 'URL', as the 'U' is pronounced more like a hard consonant than a soft vowel. No doubt some linguist or pedantic English teacher could construct an exact rule, but I suppose a practical rule could be made from where your tongue is with respect to your teeth or whether your lips are closed when saying the letter.

I can see how it can be hard for a non-native speaker to determine the proper usage.
 

ELECTRONERD

Joined May 26, 2009
1,146
I'm not so sure "an" is correct, but rather "a". You see, if we unravelled the acronym LED and had "Light Emitting Diode," "An Light Emitting Diode" doesn't agree gramatically. However, "A Light Emitting Diode" does make sense. Therefore, I think "A LED" would be correct and also "One LED" would be alright as well.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,928
I'm not so sure "an" is correct, but rather "a". You see, if we unravelled the acronym LED and had "Light Emitting Diode," "An Light Emitting Diode" doesn't agree gramatically. However, "A Light Emitting Diode" does make sense. Therefore, I think "A LED" would be correct and also "One LED" would be alright as well.
When unsure, there are lots of resources available.

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01/

Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that begins the next word. So...

* a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
* an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant; an egg; an apple; an idiot; an orphan
* a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user (sounds like 'yoo-zer,' i.e. begins with a consonant 'y' sound, so 'a' is used); a university; a unicycle
* In some cases where "h" is pronounced, such as "historical," us an:

An historical event is worth recording.
John
 

Ratch

Joined Mar 20, 2007
1,068
jpanhalt,

Originally Posted by Ratch
Alberto,

The best rule I can think of is don't let the consonant "n" in "an" flow into another consonant, and don't let the "a" in "a" flow into a another vowel. So "an LED" is a no-no. By the way, speaking of grammar, "english grammar" is "English grammar" because "English" is a nationality, and is always capitalized in the King's English.

Ratch

Sorry, and with all due respect, it's the pronunciation not the spelling that governs, particularly for acronyms. Follow my example of "an L."L."
Agreed. I never said anything about spelling. I said consonant. The dictionary defines consonant as a. (in English articulation) a speech sound produced by occluding with or without releasing (p, b; t, d; k, g), diverting (m, n, ng), or obstructing (f, v; s, z, etc.) the flow of air from the lungs (opposed to vowel).

The "L" sound you are talking about is pronounced as "EL", so "an L" sounds good because of its vowel sound. "A LED" sounds good because of its consonant sound. So again I say, don't let the consonant "n" in "an" flow into another consonant, and don't let the "a" in "a" flow into another vowel.

Ratch
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,928
So "an LED" is a no-no.

Ratch
"A LED" sounds good because of its consonant sound.
So, how do you pronounce "LED?" And, how about "IRED?"

The vast majority of people pronounce LED (when meaning a light emitting diode) by saying the individual letters. The first letter of which is not a consonant sound.

Even if you might pronounce LED as the verb "led," you must admit that many people pronounce LED as the individual letters, which is clear in the preceding posts. Therefore, to say, "an LED is a no-no" is simply wrong.

John
 

loosewire

Joined Apr 25, 2008
1,571
When You guys get bored,you should go out to your car
and check your awl and water. Grammar has a south sound,
Southern Ohio beat the a's. Loosewire's English.
Where as,where by.
 
Last edited:

Ratch

Joined Mar 20, 2007
1,068
jpanhalt,

So, how do you pronounce "LED?" And, how about "IRED?"
1A) an el,ee,dee

1B) a LED as in led (past tense of lead)

2) always use "an" whether you pronounce IRED as a word or spell it out

Ratch
 

loosewire

Joined Apr 25, 2008
1,571
I think different expression's of langage has to do with the
subject and meaning of words, a book of facts should be clear
concise to explain a point clearly. A novel or general reading
can be more relaxing written as spoken by the subject,to get
more of a feal of that person being written about,the person
place,subject.Like my writing you have to figure out what I am
saying.Some times my mind is moving faster than my typing.
 

ELECTRONERD

Joined May 26, 2009
1,146
Yeah, A Light Emitting Diode is the correct way just by itself, and An Infrared Light Emitting Diode would be correct if you add the infrared to it.
 

Ratch

Joined Mar 20, 2007
1,068
Alberto,

Ratch, that is interesting but I don't spell "L", "E" , "D" when I refer to a led, I just say "LED", so there is no pronounced "EL".
As was pointed out before, the rule applies to how it sounds, not how it is spelled. So when you say LED, you are using the "leh" sound, which is a consonant.

Sorry for that, but I thougt that since English was refered to the word "GRAMMAR", you didn't need the upper case or King's English
Nope. A word designated to be capitalized does not lose that status if it is used as an adjective. Two examples are "Boolean algebra" and "Boole's inequality", both named after George Boole.

Ratch
 

studiot

Joined Nov 9, 2007
5,002
Since neither the UK, nor any of you guys have a king to have any english the term is moot.

Alberto et al if you have to have a rule then try this

a led

a light emitting diode

an ell ee dee

note the spelling if the word following an - it starts with a vowel. This is the spelling of the name of the letter l.

All totally self consistent.

However the beaty of the Bard's English is that there are no hard and fast rules, sometimes we make exceptions in the name of expediency as in john'd

an hour
 
Last edited:

FastEddie

Joined Jul 14, 2007
35
I'm just curious. If you were talking about a(an) USB cable instead of LEDs which would it be:
a USB cable
or
an USB cable
?
I guess if it were plural it would have to be 'the USB cables', so no problem there.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,928
I'm just curious. If you were talking about a(an) USB cable instead of LEDs which would it be:
a USB cable
or
an USB cable
?
I guess if it were plural it would have to be 'the USB cables', so no problem there.
Regarding the indefinite article, you should review the numerous comments regarding pronunciation. How do YOU pronounce "USB?" If you pronounce the individual letters, the correct article is "a." If you try to pronounce it as a single word, as apparently some people do with LED, then the correct article depends on how you make the beginning sound. If that sound is like "ooo", as in boo, then the article is "an." If it is more like "u" as in uniform, then the article is an "a."

In you example, you made the noun into an adjective, so the singular USB is correct.

If you want the plural, either USBs or USB's can be used. Neither is absolutely correct or wrong, but your editor may have a different opinion. There is a preference for USBs as the plural and USB's as the possessive (as in USB's output ).

John
 

Wendy

Joined Mar 24, 2008
21,848
I say the letters, always. Makes it hard to misunderstand, be it LED or USB or PSU (think how that last would sound pronounced).
 
Top