Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

In English do we always pronounce the article “a” in the same way?

Usually it’s pronounced “uh” with the schwa sound but sometimes it’s pronounced “ei.”

How do you know when to use each pronunciation form?

Find out today.


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So today we’ll show you the different ways to pronounce the article “a.” Let’s start with a question from our listener:

 Hello Lindsay, Michelle and Jessica.

My name is Freddy (from Venezuela) I’ve been listening to your podcast for a long time and I am a huge fan!

Keep up the great work.

I have a question for you.

Are there different pronunciations for the indefinite article “a”?

I was listening to president Donald Trump and I realized he was pronouncing “ei” instead of the shwa sound.

Hope you can help me with this mess.

Warm hugs from the Caribbean.


Our answer:

90% of the time you use “uh” with the schwa sound. This is the same sound that you would hear in the words “bug,” “ton” or “fun.”

The only time you might use “ei” is if you are trying to emphasize something and make a point.

For example, you might say, “Can I have ‘uh’ candy?” (/ə/)

You are given two candies. You say, “But I asked for ‘aye’ candy, not two.” (/eɪ/).


Another example:

Right now we are talking about this article and when we talk about the article “a” in isolation we are emphasizing it so we might use “ei” because it’s easier to highlight it that way. But again 90% of the time, use the schwa if you are just speaking normally.

To give you a few more details we are going to pull a few quotes from real native speakers because that’s who really knows.

Even if the grammar books tell us something is a rule it really doesn’t matter if you are saying something correctly but everyone else is saying it in the “casual, street” way.


Let’s grab a couple of quotes from this forum. 

“Count me in with the “/ay/ for emphasis only” crowd: “That’s A book, but it’s not THE book we’re supposed to read.” If I heard someone saying “I saw /ay/ student reading /ay/ book” without emphasizing the articles, I’d assume that he was either a foreigner or an eccentric.”


It’s interesting this same rule applies to the article “the.”

When you want to emphasize something you say “the” like “thee”



Now that you know that “a” can be pronounced in two different ways and you know why, try to listen for these differences.

Pay attention when someonoe is trying to emphasize something or make an idea stand out because that’s when they’ll use “ei” or “thee”.

Once you hear it and get comfortable starting to use these variations to sound more interesting it’s all about getting more rythm and personality in your voice.

That’s what you guys are ready for.

Also if you hear different uses where the speaker is trying to emphasize then post your examples in the comments section below this article. 


What questions do you have?

Let us know in the comments section below.

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