Historic Article

C3D5CE8D-F3A6-429B-B8A1-EBC128F1BEA8I saw an article that popped up on my iPhone’s news feed this morning. It was about the U.S. and the Taliban having signed a peace agreement and it contained a sentence that read:

After a week-long “reduction in violence,” the US and Taliban have signed a historic agreement Saturday, which would set into motion the drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan and potentially pave the way to ending America’s longest-fought war.

My post, by the way, has nothing to do with that “historic agreement.” It does have to do, as the image at the top hints, with historic articles, though.

When I read that sentence, I was struck by the phrase “a historic.” Way back in my school days I was taught that the article “an” should be used before the letter “h.” After all, you wouldn’t say “I’ll meet you in a hour.” You’d say “…an hour.” Likewise, “It would be an honor,” not “a honor.” Right?

So the sentence in the article, based upon what I had learned, should have read “…have signed an historic agreement….”

Now I’m second guessing myself. Was I taught the wrong thing? Am I misremembering? Did I dream the whole thing up?

So, of course, I Googled it. Most of the sites I found said that “a historic” is correct. As one site explained:

The article “an” is correct before historic if the word is pronounced “istoric.” “A” is the correct article if the word is pronounced “historic,” beginning with an h sound. In print, at least in the United States, where the word is normally pronounced with an h, the correct written form is “a historic.”

Another site put it simply:

Here’s the basic rule: If the word begins with a consonant sound, the correct article is “a.” If the word begins with a vowel sound, the correct article is “an.”

So was I taught the wrong grammatical rule in my formative years, or did I just misunderstand how to apply the rule? In any event, “a historic” sounds awkward to me, while “an historic” sounds right.

What about you? Do you use an “a” or an “an” before the word “historic”?

36 thoughts on “Historic Article

  1. Ruth February 29, 2020 / 11:22 am

    I’m old school too, so ‘an historic’ for me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 29, 2020 / 4:27 pm

      Yup, I must be old school, too, because I’m all for ‘an historic’ as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stroke Survivor UK February 29, 2020 / 11:27 pm

        can do, but we get influences from everywhere these days. Dropping h’s is not considered good English, but, you know, rules…

        Liked by 1 person

      • inkdropk March 1, 2020 / 4:25 am

        On Occasion , Fandango – yes! but the English language is a Funny thing – I.e. The rule i before e except after C has over 400 exceptions to it…..

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Marleen February 29, 2020 / 11:47 am

    I don’t think either is really considered incorrect… or was. It might have been regional to different parts of the United States in the nineteen hundreds. I’ve heard both, and in educated environments. But I was taught as the answers above, that you quoted, say. Extrapolating, if I were to pronounce “herbal” as the English do, I’d speak of “a herbal fragrance” (however, I have the sense that the English tend to use “an” before an h [non-silent] sound more than we do) — while, in American English, I’d refer to “an herbal fragrance” [silent h].

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Richmond Road February 29, 2020 / 11:49 am

    If one is a member of the royal family then ‘an historic’ is compulsory … as is ‘an hotel’, because it helps one sound like a pompous twat. The rest of us can please ourselves.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Paula Light February 29, 2020 / 11:59 am

    I would say a historical event, as I would say a heartbreak hotel, a hot potato, and a helping hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. cagedunn February 29, 2020 / 12:40 pm

    Would you like to know the history of it?
    You’re going to, so you can make up your own mind which form to use.

    Late 19th c, the upper class toffs decided to drop h’s all over the place, and to place the ‘an’ prior to these little wordery games they played on ‘the lower class’. A hotel became an ‘otel, etc.
    And the lower-down lower-classes always copy what the upper classes do, don’t they. And yes, they then taught it in schools.

    If you continue using ‘an’ before words that start with a solid consonant ‘h’, you’re caving to the game-playing of Victorian toffs.
    Your choice.
    The men who created grammar rules based on Latin rules didn’t do us any favours, either, but at least they were consistent.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango February 29, 2020 / 10:49 pm

      Oh no! I don’t want to kowtow to the Victorian toffs (whatever or whoever they were), but after decades of saying “an historic,” changing to “a historic” is going to be tough for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. newepicauthor February 29, 2020 / 12:45 pm

    An “an” comes before words with a vowel sound and the indefinite article is also used before an unsounded h. Words like historic, horrific, hotel, honest, heir, hour and honor,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fandango February 29, 2020 / 10:53 pm

      To my ear, of the words you listed, all but “horrific” and “hotel” should be preceded by an “an.” But “horrific” and “hotel” sound better with an “a” in front. To my ears, anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • newepicauthor March 1, 2020 / 7:15 am

        It all depends on how you pronounce “horrific” and “hotel” so if you make an H sound when you say those words than A is the way to go, but if you drop the H sound then you have to use AN.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Christine Bolton February 29, 2020 / 2:04 pm

    I agree with you as that is how I say it and write it. However we do say things like “a history lesson” or “a howling wolf” so it would depend on the noun. Also is it correct to say “an hotel” or “a hotel”. I say an hotel and the H isn’t silent 😕 Arghhhhh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 29, 2020 / 11:06 pm

      I would say “a hotel,” and “a history lesson,” but “an historic event.” So inconsistent, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Taswegian1957 February 29, 2020 / 4:00 pm

    I am sure I was taught it as “an historic event” but as soon as I wrote it Grammarly jumped on me with a big red line. English is a crazy language sometimes. As for the bit about snobs I had not heard that before.
    Now I wonder if Eliza Dolittle wasted her time learning how to say “In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 29, 2020 / 11:18 pm

      English is, indeed, a crazy, inconsistent language. No wonder ESL students have such a hard time mastering it. And then, of course, there’s American English and British English. Yikes!

      Liked by 1 person

        • Fandango March 1, 2020 / 1:24 pm

          G’day to you. Care for some shrimp on the barbee? You call that a knife? Is that a bloomin’ onion? 🤪

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Lolsy's Library March 1, 2020 / 2:49 am

    I suffer from Dyslexia, so I am not an expert on the English language. I would say though, “an” if it had actually happened, but if it hasn’t happened then I would “a”. Too me, the “a” means it’s a possibility, but it hasn’t actually happened yet. Also depends on the sentence itself, if that makes any sense?lol. I thought I’d put my two dyslexic cents in,lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. annieasksyou March 1, 2020 / 6:00 am

    I was taught “an historic…” and it’s one of those items I’m comfortable continuing. “A historic” carries the potential ambiguity of suggesting something that is outside the realm of history—ahistoric.

    But we know that language continually evolves, so those idiosyncrasies deserve wide berth, I believe.
    After all, it’s not as though someone is saying “between he and I”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen March 1, 2020 / 2:21 pm

      People do stuff like that — say “between he and I”— all the time. 😜

      I’m going to take your point as to “a historical” sounding like “ahistorical.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marleen March 1, 2020 / 4:00 pm

        It helps if we say “uh” instead of the long a sound for the article. But, when typing, there could easily be a typo. Either way, I think I’ll change to using “an” before historic… and homage.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. leigha66 March 3, 2020 / 9:41 pm

    I am not a grammar wizard by any means, but do remember “an” in front of a vowel. “a” in front of a consonant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 3, 2020 / 10:41 pm

      Yes, but if a word starting with the consonant “h” is pronounced as if it starts with a vowel, as in “honor,” wouldn’t an “an” be better, as in “It’s an honor to meet you” versus “It’s a honor to meet you”?

      Liked by 1 person

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