In the months leading up to the UK Referendum, I've heard the phrase "the E.U." thousands of times, and I've noticed that nearly all media-speakers pronounce it as /ðəʔiːjuː/. My memory, and my old dictionary that uses the IPA, tells me that most Brits used to say /ði.iːjuː/ - that is, /ðə/ becomes /ði/ before a vowel. Is this a recent change?

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    Possible duplicate of What is the pronounciation of "the" before the vowel "e"? If you want more or different information than there is in my answer to that question, please edit your post to describe what else you would like to know and sent me a comment and I'll remove my close vote. – herisson Jun 24 '16 at 8:11
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    Not exactly a duplicate, I think, because my question was, Is this a recent change? – David Garner Jun 24 '16 at 8:14
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    @EdwinAshworth possible duplicate of sumelic's comment. – user126158 Jun 24 '16 at 18:06
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    I think lots of people use /ðə/ before /iː/, but /ði/ before other vowels. I don't know how long this has been going on, but sticking two /i/ vowels right next to each other isn't the most euphonious pronunciation. Is your memory of /ði/ before vowels in general, or /ði/ specifically before /iː/? – Peter Shor Jun 28 '16 at 13:48
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    Which revives a 60-year-old memory of my primary teacher, checking my written work, and saying "A egg? A egg? Is that right, David?" [I guess that's why I subconsciously used 'egg' in my previous comment!] – David Garner Jun 29 '16 at 14:23

To cut through the comment chaos and address the question:

You can say "the" like "thee" or "thuh", interchangeably. This isn't a recent development and as far as I know it's not particularly associated with a particular region. A given individual might use both on seperate occasions.

I believe that "thee" is favoured in "Received pronounciation", which is a now largely discredited guide to how English is "supposed to be pronounced", derived from listening to how the royal family speaks. That is to say, the Queen would most likely say "thee". Even the BBC (a good touchstone for any British English pronounciation questions) don't insist that their presenters speak like this, however, any more.


Choice of "thee" or "thuh" generally depends on the word that follows. Words starting with a vowel sound will be more likely to have "thee" before them, as it's an easier transition. For example "Thuh team" is easier to say than "thee team" and "thee orange" is easier to say (or perhaps easier to hear clearly) than "thuh orange", which would sound too much like "thorange". Hence, people will tend to say "Thee E.U.", as it's just more natural to say than "thuh E.U."

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Oct 2 '16 at 17:59

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