Pronouncing the Definite Article 'the'

International Business English

If you are a non native speaker of English, there are a few useful things to know regarding the pronunciation of the definite article 'the'.

Normally this word is pronounced 'thuh'. However before a word beginning with a vowel the pronunciation normally changes to 'thee', for example:

I am working on the (thuh) budget.


We need to put the (thee) effort this year into development.

There are exceptions to this, namely when the word following 'the' begins with the semi-vowel sound /j/ which is pronounced like the first sound of the word 'yes', for example:

The (thuh) European Union has grown significantly.


The pronunciation of 'the' also changes when additional emphasis is required, for example:


We are the (thuh) best team in this sector.


We are the (thee) best team in this sector.

When used this way, it doesn't matter if the following word begins with a vowel or a consonant.

This is thee most useful technique to use in combination with changes in pace, stress, rhythm and intonation, when you want to impress, motivate, convey enthusiasm or simply express surprise.


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