Deeper Dive: a

word story text

A is a word in English, as well as a letter. The dictionary pronunciation of the word A is “ay”, which is also the name of the letter, which beginning readers should already know.

We teach students that the word A is pronounced “ay”, but it usually isn’t. We says “uh” more often, as in “get me a drink of water and a bag of popcorn”. Not “get me A drink of water and A bag of popcorn”.

Students should find it easy to pronounce the word A in a text. There is only one potential complication: in many phonics programs, students are taught that the letter A can have several pronunciations. Now they are being told that the word A has one. This shouldn’t be a major problem, but it could take time away from other instruction.

A is partnered with THE. A is the indefinite article, THE is the definite article. See the entry for THE for details.

The use of a in logical symbols:

symbol: A ⇒ B
meaning: “If A, then B.” In other words, “A implies B.” In other words, “If A is true, then B is true.”
example: x = 2 ⇒ x + 3 = 5

symbol: A ⇔ B
meaning: “A if and only if B.” In other words, “If A is true, then B is true. If A is false then B is false.”
example: x = 2 ⇔ x + 3 = 5

symbol: A := B
meaning: “Let A equal B.” or “A, which has been defined to be equal to B,” depending on context.
example: A := R (The set A is defined to equal the set of real numbers)
A (named ā in the English, and most commonly ä in other languages). The first letter of the English and of many other alphabets. The capital A of the alphabets of Middle and Western Europe, as also the small letter (a), besides the forms in Italic, black letter, etc., are all descended from the old Latin A, which was borrowed from the Greek Alpha, of the same form; and this was made from the first letter of the Phœnician alphabet, the equivalent of the Hebrew Aleph, and itself from the Egyptian origin. The Aleph was a consonant letter, with a guttural breath sound that was not an element of Greek articulation; and the Greeks took it to represent their vowel Alpha with the ä sound, the Phœnician alphabet having no vowel symbols. This letter, in English, is used for several different vowel sounds. See Guide to pronunciation, §§ 43-74. The regular long a, as in fate, etc., is a comparatively modern sound, and has taken the place of what, till about the early part of the 17th century, was a sound of the quality of ä (as in far).
2. (Mus.) The name of the sixth tone in the model major scale (that in C), or the first tone of the minor scale, which is named after it the scale in A minor. The second string of the violin is tuned to the A in the treble staff. – A sharp (A♯) is the name of a musical tone intermediate between A and B. – A flat (A♭) is the name of a tone intermediate between A and G.
A per se
(L. per se by itself),
one preëminent; a nonesuch.
O fair Creseide, the flower and A per se
Of Troy and Greece. Chaucer.
A (ȧ emph. ā). 1. [Shortened form of an. AS. ān one. See One.] An adjective, commonly called the indefinite article, and signifying one or any, but less emphatically. “At a birth”; “In a word”; “At a blow”. Shak. It is placed before nouns of the singular number denoting an individual object, or a quality individualized, before collective nouns, and also before plural nouns when the adjective few or the phrase great many or good many is interposed; as, a dog, a house, a man; a color; a sweetness; a hundred, a fleet, a regiment; a few persons, a great many days. It is used for an, for the sake of euphony, before words beginning with a consonant sound [for exception of certain words beginning with h, see An]; as, a table, a woman, a year, a unit, a eulogy, a ewe, a oneness, such a one, etc. Formally an was used both before vowels and consonants.

2. [Originally the preposition a (an, on).] In each; to or for each; as, “twenty leagues a day”, “a hundred pounds a year”, “a dollar a yard”, etc.
A (ȧ), preposition [Abbreviated form of an (AS. on). See On.]
1. In; on; at; by. [Obs.] “A God’s name.” “Torn a pieces.” “Stand a tiptoe.” “A Sundays” Shak. “Wit that men have now a days.” Chaucer. “Set them a work.” Robynson (More's Utopia). 2. In process of; in the act of; into; to; – used with verb
2. [Originally the preposition a (an, on).] In each; to or for each; as, “twenty leagues a day”, “a hundred pounds a year”, “a dollar a yard”, etc.
-- Webster's unabridged 1913

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