The Grammar Guide Spelling What is the difference between "an" and "and"?

What is the difference between "an" and "and"?

What is the difference between "an" and "and"?

The words an and and are often confused because of their similar spelling. In this article, we explain the difference between them.

An is a determiner that means "the indefinite article before nouns with a vowel sound".

And is a conjunction that means "expressing two elements to be taken together or in addition to each other".

Let's take a closer look at each word.

An is an indefinite article. It comes before a noun and it's used when you aren't referring to one specific noun. An has the same meaning as a, but an precedes nouns that start with a vowel sound. (It's important to note that the sound of the noun is more important than the spelling. For instance, we would say an hour because hour sounds like it starts with an o.)

Examples of "an":

  • He took an apple from his pocket.
  • It was an ordeal, but we finally made it.
  • They knew it had been an honest mistake.

And is a conjunction. It can connect words that are the same part of speech, such as two adjectives (e.g. calm and steady) or two nouns (e.g. eggs and bacon). And can also connect independent and dependent clauses. You can even start a sentence with and if the new sentence is connected to the previous one.

Examples of "and":

  • Red, yellow, and blue are the three primary colors.
  • In the UK, many people enjoy eating fish and chips by the seaside.
  • Five and five make ten. And what about five minus five?

Is the correct phrase "put an end to" or "put and end to"?

The right expression is "put an end to" – e.g. She had to put an end to their meddling.

What's the right phrase, "play an important role" or "play and important role"?

The right expression is "play an important role" – e.g. Diet and exercise play an important role in a person's well-being.

Is the expression "an integral part of" or "and integral part of"?

The correct phrase is "an integral part of" – e.g. Plotting is an integral part of planning your novel.

Should I use "and it is" or "an it is"?

You should use "and it is" – e.g. Grammar rules are tricky, and it is easy for new writers to be put off by them.

Is the expression "and so on" or "an so on"?

You should use "and so on" – e.g. The table was laden with cakes, sandwiches, scones, and so on.

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The definitions in this article were adapted from Wiktionary and Oxford.

Examples of an in a sentence

The students didnt know it then, but he was passing on an oral tradition that goes back centuries.
- Nothing gold can stay by Dana Stabenow
It was as if the eyelids had pricked up like an animal's ears.
- From Russia with love: a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming
Devin MacKade considered the age of twenty to be an awkward time in the life of a man.
- The heart of Devin MacKade by Nora Roberts
While the Grolims prepared for an orgy of human sacrifice, the generals paused.
- Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings
An electric body.
- Grand Junction by Maurice G. Dantec

Examples of and in a sentence

Third and Final Book of the Thrall Series
- Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams; Cathy Clamp
But for him, it was a personal agenda, and he wasn't talking.
- The heart of Devin MacKade by Nora Roberts
She had the beauty, all right—and plenty more.
- Cropper's cabin by Jim Thompson
Percy Jackson and the Olympians – Book 4
- The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
For each ecstatic instant We must an anguish pay In keen and quivering ratio To the ecstasy.
- The collected poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson; Rachel Wetzsteon

Test yourself

Choose the missing word in each question.