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I have noticed a regrettable trend toward using the short "e" when pronouncing "the" before words beginning with a vowel: "thuh Earth"; thuh older one". This used to be a cultural symbol (e.g., old movies) of illiteracy and still sounds so to me. Is there any specific recommendation on this other than taste and pleasing the ear?

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    Works the same way as the rule for a/an. /ði/ or /ən/ before vowels; /ðə/ or /ə/ before consonants. An hour, the hour: /ən'awər, ði'awər/; a use, the use: /ə'yus, ðə'yus/. May 1 '15 at 4:49
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Meriam-Webster has an excellent suggestion on the pronunciation of "the":

before consonants usually thə, before vowels usually thē, sometime before vowels also thə; for emphasis before titles and names or to suggest uniqueness often ˈthē

In other words, if you want emphasis, go with the long "e"; and if you feel the pronunciation requires it, use the long "e" before vowels.

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