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Pedantic grammar question

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66Mustang
66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,986 Championing
edited May 8 in Coffee lounge
I wonder if anyone wants to try to help settle a light-hearted argument

Everyone knows the word "an" is used in place of "a" when preceding a word beginning with a vowel (and in a few other instances as well)

When you abbreviate a phrase by using the first letters of each word do you decide between "a" and "an" based on how that letter is spoken out loud, or based on what the full word it represents is?

I'll give an example as it will probably be easier...

"Taking the car for a MOT"

Do you say "Taking the car for an MOT"??

I'm of the view that it's just "a", because the M stands for "Ministry", and you don't say "an ministry".

However loads of people use the word "an", I am assuming because the letter "m" is pronounced "emm" and "an emm" runs off the tongue easier.

Who is correct????

Comments

  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Community member Posts: 2,806 Championing
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    I'd say it's purely about how the two words sound together when read out.  So because the letter M starts with a vowel sound when read singly, it should be an MOT.
  • onedayatatime
    onedayatatime Community member Posts: 135 Empowering
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    You've got me thinking what I do.
    I would definitely 'say' an MOT but if 'writing' would put a MOT. 

  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,702 Championing
    edited May 8
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    I also say 'an MOT'.

    I will say, the rules of language should really be seen as "guidelines". Language is constantly evolving and changing. The 'rules' we get taught at school have only really existed for the past 100-200 years, and they were just decisions based on the language at the time and how the person making the decision felt. 

    As long as 
    1. Other people understand what you are saying
    2. It feels natural to you

    then you aren't doing anything wrong. :)


    Edit: 'an MOT' is actually correct 

    A/an and the - Grammar - Cambridge Dictionary

    the M in "MOT" and "MP3" start with a vowel sound. You say 'Em'. Whether you use 'a' or 'an' depends on the sound, not the letter itself. Because english is not a phonetic language letters can have different sounds, some consonants can have vowel sounds and some vowels can have consonant sounds. As the link above states, you wouldn't say 'an university' would you?

    They/Them, however there are no 'wrong' pronouns with me so whatever you feel most comfortable with
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  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,702 Championing
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    Can you think of any other words you do this with?


    They/Them, however there are no 'wrong' pronouns with me so whatever you feel most comfortable with
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  • 66Mustang
    66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,986 Championing
    edited May 8
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    @Jimm_Scope

    I agree with not taking language too seriously but I think maybe ironically this question wasn't intended to be taken quite so seriously as some took it either :D:D  I totally agree that if you understand someone then that's the main thing. I do kind of think that taking a pride in the quality of your grammar shouldn't be seen as an undesirable trait??

    One thing I HATE though is when someone picks up someone on their grammar when English is their 2nd (or more) language. Someone who speaks only English kind of has no excuse but if say a Chinese person speaks English 90% as well as me, well that's 90% better than my Chinese is!!!!

    That's really interesting about what the dictionary tells you to do though about the rule being how you say something rather than a black-and-white rule!! 
  • 66Mustang
    66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,986 Championing
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    This  has given me an idea for a debate question actually so I will post that later :D  We are off to walk the dog for now though :blush: 
  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Community member Posts: 2,806 Championing
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    Can you think of any other words you do this with?
    Hotel is an interesting one.  Depends on regional dialects.  My dialect has quite a strong 'huh' sound so I'd say a hotel.  But for dialects such as Yorkshire or Essex that drop the h, it flows better to say an 'otel. 

    In that case, it can't be possible to write correctly every time without knowing who the reader will be.  :)
  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,702 Championing
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    Writing is simply an extension of the spoken language! So it's whatever feels right in speaking yeah. 

    They/Them, however there are no 'wrong' pronouns with me so whatever you feel most comfortable with
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    Opinions are my own, such as mashed potato being bad.

  • 66Mustang
    66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,986 Championing
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    I don't know if it's true but I was told that there was an old civilisation (it might have been Romans) who didn't understand the concept of reading in your head - they would read texts* and things out loud, even if they were alone

    *obviously I don't mean text messages
  • 66Mustang
    66Mustang Community member Posts: 14,986 Championing
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    I just felt I need to make clear this was just a light-hearted argument I was having with family, I thought I said it was light-hearted in the first post but I can’t really remember

    Just I know I’m being thin-skinned but kind of thought some posts were having a dig at me for being a Grammar Nazi or whatever it’s called (which anyone can see I’m not just from the format of my posts as I clearly don’t bother that much myself :D )
  • onedayatatime
    onedayatatime Community member Posts: 135 Empowering
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    You've all blown my mind! I've been walking around the house checking what I call things 🤣
    ' it's a brush, it's a comb, it's an 'airdrier!!'
    I'm in Essex 👍🤣
  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,702 Championing
    edited May 8
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    an xbox, not a xbox (the game console)

    xray too, an xray.

    They/Them, however there are no 'wrong' pronouns with me so whatever you feel most comfortable with
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  • WhatThe
    WhatThe Community member, Scope Member Posts: 1,305 Championing
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    Can you think of any other words you do this with?

    An SDP entitlement

    An LCWRA determination   ;)  


  • woodbine
    woodbine Community member Posts: 12,139 Championing
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    I must admit online I never pick people up for bad spelling or poor grammar, although I'm sometimes tempted, I think spell checkers can be blamed in many cases, as odd as that sounds.

    2024 Election won

  • OverlyAnxious
    OverlyAnxious Community member Posts: 2,806 Championing
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    I wasn't having a dig at anyone and apologise if it came across that way.  :)

    Improper spelling & grammar is something that annoys me...oh wait, wrong thread! :D

    I don't claim to be perfect at those things either though.  Online I tend to type very informally, lots of comma's, the way I used to speak, rushed and cramming it all in to one sentence!

    I used to pick people up on poor spelling & grammar when I was younger, but have grown to understand that not everyone had the same level of education that I did, and of course many have conditions that make spelling & grammar difficult.
  • KG100
    KG100 Community member Posts: 216 Empowering
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    "I saw a plane today"
    "I saw an aeroplane today"
    I usually write things down as I would say them. 
    I suppose a and an comes to us naturally as we talk. 
  • KG100
    KG100 Community member Posts: 216 Empowering
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    For me it would be "an MOT" rather then "a MOT"

  • Jimm_Scope
    Jimm_Scope Posts: 3,702 Championing
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    There are other interesting 'rules' that we don't tend to think about. As @KG100 mentions, 'a' and 'an' just come to us naturally as we talk. 

    Have you ever considered however the order in which we say adjectives?

    We tend to not even think about it. Opinion - size - physical quality - shape - age - colour - origin - material - type - purpose.

    For instance, you'd say "a large, old, brown dog". To say a "Brown, old, large dog" just sounds... not right somehow. 

    They/Them, however there are no 'wrong' pronouns with me so whatever you feel most comfortable with
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