My question is can I always pronounce THE with thuh instead of thee? Because unlike "a" "an" rule, pronouncing "thee" seems cumbersome for some people (including me) Note that I know the "emphasis" and "vowel, consonant" rule about THE but I still prefer to pronounce it as thuh everytime. So can I??

  • Who will stop you if you do? If the answer is "no one", then of course you can. Whether you should is another matter entirely. – anongoodnurse May 30 '14 at 10:34
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    If you do, make sure you insert a glottal consonant between the vowel sounds. – snailplane May 30 '14 at 10:51
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    You could choose to pronounce "women" as woe men. "Sugar" as Sue grr. "Island" as is-land. – Blessed Geek May 30 '14 at 11:24
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    I remember reading somewhere that some dialects of English actually use thuh all the time. If you don't live in a region where these dialects are commonly heard, though, it might make you sound foreign and/or uneducated. But people will understand you. – Peter Shor May 30 '14 at 12:41
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    There's some discussion here with recordings: englishspeechservices.com/blog/… – snailplane May 30 '14 at 13:37

I hadn't thought about this at all but now I have I don't think I say thee for words that start with vowels.

thuh apple, thuh energy plant, thuh interesting fact, thuh umbilical cord it's all the same as thuh dog. I might sound a bit more theeish when I say the oil rig but it's nowhere near a thee more like a very short they .

I do say an apple and an hour and my lack of thee didn't hold me back in life.

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    @Tristanr I'm common as muck, me. – Frank May 30 '14 at 13:38
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    That is the rule for both articles: an /ən/ and the /ði/ before vowels (vowel sounds, that is -- this is not a spelling rule); a /ə/ and the /ðə/ before consonant sounds. Since English speakers are not taught about the English language in school, it comes as a surprise to most of them that the most common word in the language has two different pronunciations that we vary automatically in context. Similarly, the fact that there are two different sounds spelled TH -- voiceless /θ/ as in thin and voiced /ð/ as in this is usually surprising. – John Lawler May 30 '14 at 15:26
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    @JohnLawler, I'm aware of the 'rule', what surprised me the most was that I don't actually do it. When I first read the question I assumed I did, hence my comment to the OP. When I thought about it more I realised that I don't thee for vowels to any noticeable degree, except for unicorn. ;) – Frank May 30 '14 at 15:38
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    @JohnLawler There's definitely a (very very very short) gap between the and whatever not the run together theeyapple, theeyuncle of some American accents. Not easy in print, I agree. I wonder if there are words that I'm forced to use thee with? I'll need to pay more attention, or get a different accent! – Frank May 30 '14 at 16:22
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    Maybe (I almost wrote "Sounds like" :-) it could be a glottal stop. That's what separates the two OH's in Oh-oh! /'ʔoʔo/ – John Lawler May 30 '14 at 16:30

Sure you can: if and only if you find a apple and a hour to be grammatical.

I, personally, do not, and so cannot generate /ðə/ before a vowel sound — in my language.

Remember that the English definite article has three distinct pronunciations. Per the OED, these are:

  1. before a consonant sound: /ðə/
  2. before a vowel sound other than /i/: /ði/
  3. before another /i/ sound: /ðiʔ/
  4. used emphatically: /ðiː/

You can of course do whatever you please; most people do.

But be warned that there are those who will think less of you, whether out of ignorance or intent, for flagrantly flouting established spoken English usage based not on made-up rules but on actual (phonologic) laws governing this.

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  • "since English speakers are not taught about the English language in school".... How, praytell, did you learn "about" it? Apparently you are an auto-didact (or perhaps privately tutored). Clearly you know quite a lot about English. And you're right that most of us never have to think about the varied pronunciation of "the". We absorb that practice without "knowing the rule". – Brian Hitchcock Mar 12 '15 at 8:39