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Understanding Ahold vs A Hold

Even minor variances between words and phrases can mean the difference between accurate writing and embarrassing spelling errors. Sometimes, these differences come down to the placement of something as simple as a space. A good example of this is ahold vs. a hold. 

Although ahold is a familiar word, some writers will separate this adverb into two words. Similarly, the word hold has many uses other than as an adverb. If you find these differences perplexing, continue reading for an explanation of the correct contexts for each.

The Difference Between Ahold and A Hold

In this article, we will compare ahold vs. a hold. We’ll use each of these terms in an example sentence so that you can see what they look like in context.

We’ll also demonstrate using a mnemonic device that will help you choose between ahold or a hold when you write.

When You Should Use Ahold

What does ahold mean? Ahold functions as an adverb and means approximately the same as hold in this sense; specifically, it modifies a verb like get to infer ownership, possession, or contact.


– “Carina, will you get ahold of Sally to ask her why on earth our supply order hasn’t been delivered yet?” asked Jennifer.

– Landon got ahold of some drugs and used them all without sharing with Amanda.

– Truffles are difficult to get ahold of, but they are so delicious that acquiring them is worth any amount of effort.

 Ahold is used mostly in America, and it is done so in informal contexts. You’ll want to avoid its use in formal or professional writing, as it is sometimes considered to be a spelling error.

Many British dictionaries will not list the word; some American dictionaries will record it, others won’t.

When You Should Use A Hold

What does a hold mean? A hold is a phrase including the indefinite article a and the noun hold, with hold meaning a method of restraint or blockage.

–  The skilled martial artist demonstrated a hold to keep her opponent from escaping while she punched him.

–  Millie’s bank placed a hold on her account, which she found infuriating.

–  Francis found a hold on the face of the cliff and swung himself up over the edge.

–  A  crocodile trainer has amazingly escaped serious injury after a three-meter man-eater grabbed a hold of his arm and performed a ‘death roll’.

When You Should Use Hold

The composition used more frequently than both of the above structures is to get hold of. This construction is easier and is used much more often than either of the above structures.

For instance,

–  If Susan can’t get hold of me, send Mom a text message.

–  I tried calling four times, but I can’t get hold of Dad.

–  While climbing the mountain, I found it hard to get a firm hold.

Here is a Trick to Remember the Distinction

Both get ahold and get a hold of are seldom used compared to the simpler get hold of. A common rule of writing is to keep things simple rather than difficult. In this case, that rule seems to be on display.

Ahold is an informal word that is seldom used and discouraged in professional writing. In Bryan Garner’s book, Modern English Usage, put the ratio of get hold vs. get ahold at 18:1, sequentially. In other words, you should probably evade that construction.

Ahold vs A Hold Synopsis:

Do I use a hold or ahold? As the distinctions above prove, the subtleties that are a trademark of English usage can be quite confusing.

– Ahold is an informal adverb that modifies a verb to show ownership or contact.

– A hold is a phrase that consists of an indefinite article and a noun.

– Avoid both when hold is easily used instead.


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By Connie Fisher

Connie Fisher is a freelance writer and editor specializing in business writing and marketing. She holds a bachelor's degree in media and journalism and has contributed to a slew of printed and online media, including Contra Costa Times, Daily American, the The Tri-Town News,, and many more.

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