An Historical?

Musta missed this in English class…

Why do I hear so many people saying “an historical”?

I remember hearing that one would use the word “an” before a word that begins with a vowel.

Is this some special rule?

Thanx!- UltraCat

Close. You use “an” before a word that starts with a vowel sound. Thus “an hour” or “an honorable discharge”. And, if you don’t pronounce the ‘h’ in ‘historical’, then you’d say “an historical”.

And whether or not you pronouce the “h” in “historical” varies somewhat regionally.

In “history,” the stress is on the first syllable, and the “h” is invariably pronounced (unless you’re a Cockney): A History of England.

In “historical,” the stress is on the second syllable, weakening the “h” sound sufficiently so that many people would say “an historical.”

Likewise, in the U.S., many preople do not pronounce the “h” in “herb,” so that this becomes “an herb.” However, in the U.K. the “h” is usually pronounced, so it is “a herb.”

However . . . there are many people (seemingly educated) who insist on both pronouncing the hard “h” and using “an.”

Which just sounds dumb, to me.

“An istorical” sounds, to me, not quite as right as “a historical,” but both seem far better than “an historical.”


But, really now, have you ever heard someone say “an istorical”?

It just doesn’t seem correct. One wouldn’t say “an orse of a different color”!

I agree with Huerta88. :)UC42

Yes. All the time. In fact, depending on how much attention I’m paying to what I say, it’s even money on whether I’ll say “a historical”, or “an 'istorical”. The reason being, as Colibri pointed out, is the fact that the stress is on the second syllable, making it quite easy to slur “an 'istorical”. I would never say “an 'istory”, because it just sounds wrong to my ears.

Yes. It’s not universal, but neither is it incorrect.

That’s right, one wouldn’t, because with the word “horse,” unlike the word “hour,” the initial H is pronounced, AND unlike the word “historical,” said H is in an accented syllable. Compare apples to apples, and it makes sense.

Joe Random and Colibri have explained it well and succinctly. Pay attention to all of their points, and you have your explanation.

The problem is that a lot of prominent Americans have read things written by prominent English writers who would have said “an 'istorical,” but wrote “an historical.” They assume that this is the correct form and use it, but pronounce it the American way, which gets you the wrong result.

“An historical” is part of that “pater and mater” sort of pretentiousness that I call “Grahnd Piahno English”.

Pahdon me, Pater and Mater, but I simply must go play the grahnd piahno on such an historic occasion. Oh, and do be so kind as to keep the proles away, would you?

Are you talking about the pronunciation “an historical,” with the “h” pronounced? If so I would agree it’s both pretentious and ignorant. If you are talking about the pronunciation “an 'istorical,” then you are being provincial. I’m from a working-class part of the Bronx, and that’s the way I say it. If you drop or at least don’t stress the “h,” which is not uncommon regionally, then it is perfectly correct to use “an.”

Learn sumt’in new every day. Here south of Boston, I always said “an historical,” pronouncing the h. Nearly everybody around here says it that way. I always thought it was an accepted exception to the rule.

Then, just now, I LOOKED IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY. In examples given under usage, re: historical/historic, examples are given. “a historic house” “a historical novel”

Whatta ya know. . .