The Grammarphobia Blog

Just an FYI

Q: Why do people write things like “Just an FYI”? Isn’t “an” supposed to be used before a word starting with vowel, not a consonant?

A: In the phrase “Just an FYI,” the abbreviation “FYI” is being used as a noun. It’s similar to saying “an SOS” or “an RSVP.”

But why, you ask, do we use “an” instead of “a” in front of “FYI,” a word beginning with a consonant, not a vowel?

When choosing which indefinite article (that is, “a” or “an”) to use before a word, the key is the sound the word begins with, not the letter of the alphabet.

If the word begins with a vowel sound, the article is “an” (as in “an apple,” “an hour,” or “an RSVP”).

If the word begins with a consonant sound, the article is “a” (as in “a house,” “a university,” “a PhD”).

We use the article “an” before “FYI” because the pronunciation of the abbreviation begins with a vowel sound: eff-why-eye.

If you’d like to read more about this “a”-versus-“an” business, we discussed it last year in a blog item about which article to use before the word “herb.”

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