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In the case of an acronym that begins with a consonant (e.g., NRA), how should the sentence read: "John is an NRA member." Or, "John ia a NRA member."

The choice between a and an depends on the sound that begins the following word, not the letter. If the following word begins with a vowel sound, we use an; if it begins with a consonant sound, we use a. The acronym NRA is sounded out letter by letter: [en]-[ar]-[ay], so although the first letter is an <N>, the first sound is the short [e] vowel sound. So it takes an: “an NRA member.” Some acronyms are not sounded out letter by letter, but are pronounced like regular words – NASA, for instance: [nasschwa]. Since it begins with a consonant sound, before it we would use a: “a NASA spokesman.”

The same basic principle holds for the sometimes troublesome letter <h>: If it is sounded as the breathy consonant sound [h], it takes a: “a hotel.” But if the <h> is silent and the word begins with a vowel sound, it takes an: “an hour.”

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