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With reference to the use of the indefinite article, 'a' or...

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Question by iainthepict
Submitted on 2/4/2004
Related FAQ: The alt.usage.english FAQ
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With reference to the use of the indefinite article, 'a' or 'an', which would one use in front of an abbreviation such as SME (small to medium enterprise)?

Of course, it's "a small to medium...", but is it "an SME"?

Answer by charlie
Submitted on 2/15/2004
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'an SME' sounds right and runs smoothly, whereas 'a SME' does not.  So, it's 'an SME', as far as I'm concerned.


Answer by bwest3
Submitted on 2/21/2004
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a: use before a words that begin with consonants, or words that have initial vowels that sound like consonants.

an: use before words that begin with vowels, and words that begin with a silent h.


Answer by Lwithmin
Submitted on 2/22/2004
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It happens because of the way you say SME. The aspiring S sounds as if there is a vowel before it and is therefore treated as a vowel. So you say AN SME, and not A SME.
Difference is one extra syllable.


Answer by Keith
Submitted on 3/10/2004
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SME are letters not words.  The words are "ess", "emm" and "ee".  Clearly, then, you would say "an ess emm ee" just by applying the normal rules.


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