'A University' or 'An University': Which is Correct?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 28, 2023

You're not alone if you're wondering whether to say 'a university' or 'an university.' This one trips many people up. Don't worry; by the end of this article, you'll be confident in using the correct article.

In short:

  • The correct term is 'a university'.
  • 'An university' is incorrect.

Is It 'A University' or 'An University'?

Whether to use 'a university' or 'an university' comes down to the rules around indefinite article usage. And there's often some confusion around these rules. That's why we're going to spend some time today clarifying that.

Indefinite Articles Usage Rules

The two indefinite articles in the English language are 'a' and 'an.' It is often said that the article choice comes down to the first letter of the noun it precedes. If it's a consonant, use 'a'; if it's a vowel, use 'an'.

That's partially correct, but it's not the entire truth.

What you really want to pay attention to is the sound of the noun's first sound.

In this particular case, 'university' begins with the letter' u', a vowel. As per the letter rule, it makes sense that you should say 'an university,' right?


The letter 'u' usually makes the sound /ʌ/, but in this case, it makes the sound /j/, which sounds like the letter' y.'

Because 'y' is considered a consonant when it starts off a word or a syllable, 'y' is a consonant in this case. Therefore, the correct phrase is 'a university.'

Some other similar cases include:

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'University'

Let's take a closer look at the pronunciation of the word 'university.' Phonetically, this is what it looks like:

[ yoo-nuh-vur-si-tee ]

It's also helpful to look to the International Phonetic Alphabet in cases like these if you're familiar with decoding the phonemes. Here's how 'university' is spelled:

/ yu nəˈvɜr sɪ ti /

How to Use 'A University'

I will show you some examples of the phrase 'a university' in sentences so you can see how it sounds in context.

Which criteria should you look at when you choose a university?

A university's colors are always displayed at a football match.

Am I supposed to choose a university from this catalog?

They're freshmen from a university nearby.

A university's enrolment process can be pretty complicated.

Fingers crossed, I get accepted at a university of my choosing.

Concluding Thoughts

So there you have it. I hope you feel more confident about your usage of indefinite articles now.

Let's summarize what we learned:

  • The choice of which indefinite article to use depends on the beginning sound of the noun it precedes
  • Use 'a' when the noun begins with a consonant sound
  • Use 'an' when the noun begins with a vowel sound
  • 'A university' is correct

If you found this article helpful, why not check out our other confusing words articles? They're on our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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