Require director for A NGO

No , don’t get me wrong! I am neither running a job portal nor an NGO. Today while sipping my morning coffee I noticed a job ad posted in a leading daily. It was for the post of director in a reputed NGO. The ad read: “XYZ ( name changed) requires a director for managing its sponsorship program. The ideal candidate should have 2 years experience in handling A NGO.” Errrr! Somebody goofed up here, it should have been: The ideal candidate should have 2 years experience in handling AN NGO and NOT A NGO.
There’s a big confusion regarding when to use a and an. Many of us usually think that “an” goes before all the words that start with vowels, like an apple, an egg, an umbrella etc. But there are a few exceptions. Consider words like “university”, “union” etc, though they begin with a vowel but the indefinite article that should be used before these words is A and not AN. The reason being the sound made by u in “university” and “union” is same as that of “y” in “you”. So, if you thought “an” university and “an” union is correct then pause for a moment and replace “university” with “you” and what do you get “AN You” 😀

Another word that begins with a vowel but does not take “an” before it is “one” We don’t say: “it was an one – sided match”. The correct construction is “it was a one – sided match.” The reason is o makes the same sound as w in won. So, what we see here is the usage of article does not depend on the written representation of the first letter in a word, i.e if the first letter of the word is a vowel then it’s not necessary that it will have “an” before it. It depends on the phonetic (sound) quality or pronunciation of the first letter in a word, i.e. if the first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use “an” like “an hour”. If the first letter makes a consonant-type sound, you use “a.”

Usage of a/ an for abbreviations is also based on the pronunciation of the first letter. For instance, MBA, NRI, NGO, FBI etc all begin with a consonant but the first letter has a vowel type sound. So, “an” should be placed before them. However, if you are using the full name instead of acronym like Non-governmental organization instead of NGO then you should use “a Non-governmental organization.”

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