unicycle "article"

No, not a story published in a magazine or newspaper, but that little grammatical device that the Russians (and I) find to be entirely unnecessary and superfluous. (No offense, “The” Dan.)

Anyway, I incited a heated debate between two very enthusiastic English students about whether the word unicycle should take the indefinite article “a” or “an”.

One said that any word that begins with a vowel, as with unicycle, takes “an”. The other said that since the “u” in unicycle is pronounced like a consonant, it should take “a”.

Personally, I’m pretty sure I’ve always said “a unicycle”, though I know I’ve seen “an unicycle” written on this forum.

In the end, I decided it was a very dorky thing to argue about, and as such, right at home at unicyclist.com.


I hate when a word that begins with a vowel, but sounds like it starts with a consenant is preceded by an. I would always say “a unicycle.” But grammatically there is a rule somewhere that I’m guessing says otherwise. BUT English grammar is so pointless that I don’t really care.

Go with the definite article, THE unicycle. I own THE unicycle. I went for a ride on THE unicycle. Should I ride a bike or THE unicycle?

An historical statement.

The “use just “A” when it starts with a vowel, and AN if it starts with a consonant” thing Is usually right. But I know of at least a few times I have seen it A (insert word that starts with vowel here) But me personally…I think an unicycle sounds incredibly stupid and I never want to hear it again!

“THE unicycle”!!! That only works for people who only own one.

If I tell my girlfriend that I’m going to ride THE unicycle, she’ll want to know which one. …to see if I’m going offroad(kh24), for distance(coker), or trying to attempt suicide (the 5-ft savage I just bought off CL for $75)

a or an

My local high school English teacher tells me it’s “a unicycle”. Rules of grammar are not there to constrain us, but rather reflect the way that educated people speak. Another example of this in reverse would be “an RN” instead of “a RN”(registered nurse).:slight_smile:

Re: unicycle “article”

On Tue, 27 Jan 2004 22:48:18 -0600, hell-on-wheel
<hell-on-wheel@NoEmail.Message.Poster.at.Unicyclist.com> wrote:

>One said that any word that begins with a vowel, as with unicycle, takes
>“an”. The other said that since the “u” in unicycle is pronounced like
>a consonant, it should take “a”.

AFAIK, the other is right. The ‘a’ or ‘an’ depends on whether the
/pronounciation/ of the word immediately following it starts with a
vowel or a consonant. So it is
a unicycle
an honest man
an 83 bus

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

I have a feeling you might need two points of contact with the ground for such a thing to work? Or at least training wheels on the front and rear. - John Foss commenting on a picture of a one-wheeled vehicle he saw on RSU.

Then it is THE coker, THE kh24 or THE 5 ft savage :wink:

Ain’t it a truth!

The ‘u’ in unicycle is a diphthong (consists of two sounds), and you should go by the first of these. The grammar is there to describe the language, not to define it. The rule that dictates “an unicycle” is a simplification.
If the ‘n’ sounds wrong then leave it out.

is that general ‘kill yourself’ kinda suicide or are u actually doing suicide mounts on a giraffe?


A, by me, esteemed linguist (and mother of my children) informs me that ‘u’ may not be considered a diphthong in English, since diphthongs are clusters of vowels-like sounds only. Apparently the phonetically distinction between vowels and consonants is not as easy as all that.

It’s still “A unicycle” though.

How about “MY unicycle”, does that work?

BTW which is the gender of “unicycle”.

Ok , ok you guys have a gender called “neutral”… I can’t believe it!:wink:

Unicycle Gender

Unicycles change gender; when all goes well they are female eg:
“Go you beautiful thing, Go!”

When you fall off they are male eg:
“You B*stard”

Removing tongue from cheek, Fool

In Dutch we have a neutral gender too, but the Dutch word for unicycle (eenwieler) doesn’t have the neutral gender. I think it is masculine. However, the word for small unicycle (eenwielertje) IS neutral. As if it still has to decide what it will become when it grows up. :slight_smile:

This begins to sound a lot like a Just Conversation conversation.

Klaas Bil

Doesn’t the English language have only one gender?

BTW in Danish the gender of all the words for unicycle is “common” (Neither masculine nor feminime, but opposite of neutral)

Here, for the record, is what the 13th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (1982) says:

Such forms as “an historical study” or “an union” are not idiomatic in American English. Before a pronounced h, long u (or eu), and such a word as one, the indefinite article should be a: a hotel, a historical study, a euphonious word, such a one, a union, but an honor, an heir.

The first sentence is somewhat unclear, I think, but seems to be saying that “an union” (or by extension, “an unicycle”) is improper in standard in English and does not found as an idiom as well. At least that’s the best I can figure.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

LOL!!! Isn’t it really the same thing? Seriously though, I can’t even do a suicide mount on the lower elevation unis
…I’m still a bit intimidated by the height of the giraffe.