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Dear People raised in the UK or Canada, and other people who like filling out polls:

Which of the following would you normally use?

an historian
30(33.0%)
a historian
61(67.0%)

Which of the following would you normally use?

an historical figure
34(37.4%)
a historical figure
57(62.6%)


Languages are challenging, not least because they keep changing. "an historian" and "an historical figure" were some of the British grammatical quirks I got down early.

Only now, the internet tells me, times, they are a changin'. It's okay to use "a" instead of "an" for histor* words in British Englishes. I would like some more evidence on the subject one way or the other.

Comments

( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
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momist
Feb. 10th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
Both sides
I wanted to write this before I read too many of the other comments, as they might have distorted my view.

"A historian" is a direct reference to a particular person, although not defined (and could be any). "An historical figure" could be anyone. For me, as a natural (pedantic maybe, but untutored) English speaker, the difference, I think, is crucial. But I am struggling to define it. I'll give this some more thought when I'm less tired.

Actually, I would say either of both, but in different contexts. Why?

a_d_medievalist
Feb. 11th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC)
I have to say it is entirely contextual. I'm not sure I'd ever use it in writing, but depending on the flow of the sentence, I might use 'a' or 'an'
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( 61 comments — Leave a comment )