An historic

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Grammarist

In all main varieties of English, the use of an as the article preceding historic (an historic) is an unnecessary affectation. The rule for the indefinite article is that we use a before words beginning with a consonant sound, and an before words beginning with a vowel sound. The h at the beginning of historic is a consonant sound, soft though it may be. As far as we know, there are no modern English dialects in which the in historic is silent (please correct us if we’re wrong), so there’s no reason for anyone to use an instead of before the word.

The same applies with the words historical, historian, and so on. They start with consonant sound, so their article is a.

Examples

An historic appears about a third as frequently as a historic, even in some normally well-edited publications—for example:

The very possibility of it marks an historic turning point for the entire region. [New Republic]

At least one of Lord Hutton’s recommendations will mark an historic departure. [Guardian]

And, from an historical perspective, Greece’s track record as a creditor is checkered. [Wall Street Journal]

But in most edited writing, whether British, Australian, Canadian, or American, a historic is thankfully more common than an historic—for example:

The entire five-member City Council was replaced, with a historic turnout and a whopping 95 percent of voters approving the recall. [New York Times]

Maurice Manning, a historian and chancellor of the National University of Ireland who is a former Fine Gael politician, described the mood. [Financial Times]

This collection puts Orchard’s work in a historical perspective and gives an overview of the artist’s career. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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