Pronouncing ‘the’ after a vowel

If there is a vowel sound after a ‘the’ means that the is pronounced ‘thee’

How to Pronounce “the” in English

Normally, we pronounce “the” with a short sound (like “thuh”). But when “the” comes before a vowel sound, we pronounce it as a long “thee”.

vowel sound we write we say
A the apple thee apple
E the egg thee egg
I the ice-cream thee ice-cream
O the orange thee orange
U the ugli fruit thee ugli fruit

It is important to understand that it is what we say that matters, not what we write. It is the sound that matters, not the letter used in writing a word. So we use a long “thee” before a vowel sound, not necessarily before a vowel. Look at these cases:

we write with we say with
the house consonant (h) thuh house consonant sound
the hour consonant (h) thee our vowel sound
the university vowel (u) thuh youniversity consonant sound
the umbrella vowel (u) thee umbrella vowel sound

Emphatic the [thee]
When we wish to place emphasis on a particular word, we can use “emphatic the” [thee], whether or not the word begins with a consonant or vowel sound. For example:

A: I saw the [thuh] President yesterday.
B: What! The [thee] President of the United States?
A: Yes, exactly.

This lovely explanation came from

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. They mispronounce ‘the’ and ‘thuh’ on The Big Bang Theory all of the time on TV. I don’t know if it is being done on purpose or if it is the way they speak. It drives me crazy LOL. We were taught to speak and write proper English and it really bugs me. Col, I think you are 100% correct.

  2. It’s a symptom of TV Internationalisation, it’s an American habit to use “thuh” incorrectly and our kids, bless ’em, pick it up, in the same way that “estuary English” (look it up) is spreading out and covering up regional accents to the extent where you can here kids in Leeds and Manchester sounding like some sort of Mockney Geezer wannabe,

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