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Should it be a LED or an LED?

Pommie

Well-Known Member
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I was taught at school that if a word sounds like it starts with a vowel then you use an and not a. I pronounce LED as L.E.D so use an - an EL EE Dee. Others obviously pronounce it led (lead) so use a. Thoughts?

Mike.
 

crutschow

Well-Known Member
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I'm an L.E.D. person.
 

alec_t

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Me too.
 

JimB

Super Moderator
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English is such a wonderful language, with its arcane grammar structures and spellings.

Words derived from numerous other languages
Old English
Latin
French
Nordic
German
Indian
Any more?

As for the use of a/an LED, I guess that is part of the continually developing scientific and engineering jargon.
English is a living language which is developing all the time, sometimes not necessarily for the better.

JimB
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
It's quite simple (in this case) - LED is an abbreviation, so should be 'an LED' - if it was a word (such as LEAD), then it would be 'a LEAD' - such as 'a lead pencil'.

If you incorrectly pronounce LED as a word, then you should use 'a' instead of 'an' though.

It becomes quite clear if you try and speak it rather than write it, it's difficult to speak if you use the incorrect prefix. 'An lead pencil' is horrible to try are pronounce.
 

sagor1

Active Member
It is a "Light Emitting Diode", thus "a" would be proper. Also applies if you pronounce it LEAD as in lead pencil. A statement "I have a lead pencil" would be correct.
I guess it comes down to how you pronounce the abbreviation. I vote for "a".
If you spell it out as L.E.D., then an "an" would be appropriate.
 
Last edited:

crutschow

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
I guess it comes down to how you pronounce the abbreviation. I vote for "a".
If you pronounce LED as "lead", then how do you pronounce USB or BNC or RF? :)
 

Visitor

Well-Known Member
Is LED an acronym? You wouldn't pronounce radar as R A D A R (i.e., by the letter names).

For LED, I'm I'm in the L E D camp rather than the "lead" camp and thus say "an L E D" but I think this is a personal preference at this point in time.

Below is kind of an interesting analysis based on the use of a/an in a Google search.


Screenshot_20210507-093212_Edge.jpg
 

billybob

Active Member
My sister said she wanted me to pick up some "leads" for her room. I couldn't help laughing a bit. I guess more people think it sounds like than I previously thought.
 

Visitor

Well-Known Member
I updated the chart in my above post to include the latest data (2019) - it used data up to 2012. Results are similar, with ~80% of the usage being "an LED'".


led ngram.jpg
 

sagor1

Active Member
If you pronounce LED as "lead", then how do you pronounce USB or BNC or RF? :)
Well, how does one say "SATA" or refer to "MIPS"? Yes, some are spelled out, but many acronyms that have vowels in them are often said as words, are they not? I've never heard anyone refer to a processor power as M-I-P-S, just "mips". In a computer shop, I ask for a Sata drive, not a S-A-T-A drive. If there are no vowels in the abbreviation, then one usually spells it out. What about HVAC, I usually hear H-vac, not h-v-a-c.
Then, there are instances where people usually just say the words out fully, instead of spelling them or abbreviating them as a word, like ft-lbs. I guess your logic would suggest one would say f-t-dash-l-b-s ?? I just say foot pounds.

It would be interesting to see the Google Ngram analyze by country. I bet there are differences there.
 

unclejed613

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Is LED an acronym? You wouldn't pronounce radar as R A D A R (i.e., by the letter names).
there's a difference between acronyms and abbreviations... BNC is an abbreviation, and RADAR is an acronym.... the difference being an acronym is pronounced as read, and the abbreviation can't easily be pronounced.... LED just happens to work either way... most tech types say L.E.D. while others (especially among musicians ) say "led" (maybe because of "Led Zeppelin"?)
 

Nigel Goodwin

Super Moderator
Most Helpful Member
there's a difference between acronyms and abbreviations... BNC is an abbreviation, and RADAR is an acronym.... the difference being an acronym is pronounced as read, and the abbreviation can't easily be pronounced.... LED just happens to work either way... most tech types say L.E.D. while others (especially among musicians ) say "led" (maybe because of "Led Zeppelin"?)
Perhaps we're having a "Communication Breakdown" :D
 

atferrari

Well-Known Member
In Spanish I always heard LED used as a word. Spelled letter by letter would sound strange and make difficult to recognize what someone is talking about.
 

schmitt trigger

Well-Known Member
Speaking of....... when you are in a conversation talking about small capacitors, do you pronounce: ten picofarads or ten puffs?
Ten microfarads or ten mikes?
 

nsaspook

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LOL
 

gophert

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
...if a word sounds like it starts with a vowel then you use an and not a.
So, is it...
A herb or an herb?
Is it a ewe or an ewe?
 

gophert

Well-Known Member
Most Helpful Member
.
 

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