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The correct pronounciation of "THE" Options
phumla petit
Posted: Monday, August 8, 2011 12:53:52 PM
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Joined: 7/28/2011
Posts: 4
Neurons: 12
Please help shed some light! I sometimnes hear "The" pronounced as "Thee" or as "Ther" depending on the succeeding noun. (The usage of "Thee" being the same as that of "an" e.g.  an apple/"Thee" apple. And the usage of "Ther" being the same as that of "a" e.g. a car/"Ther" car). But  I also often hear "Thee" being used regardless of the noun that follows. How exactly is "The" meant to be pronounced? Is there a rule?
Thanks in advance.
P.
thar
Posted: Monday, August 8, 2011 1:04:08 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
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it is pronounced thee when you are using the elipsis theey

eg before a vowel sound
the only (thee yonly)
the extra (thee yextra)

the (unaccented schwa) when followed by a consonant sound

the first (tha first)
the one (tha wun)

you would not normally use thee before a consonant, that I can think of, unless

1) it is a regional accent
2) you are accenting it:

eg it is not just any book it is THEE book on the subject.
he is THEE footballer to watch this season (him and not another one)

you cannot emphasis the simple tha (schwa).

this is a quick thinking about examples, not from grammatical knowledge. Others might contribute that.
IMcRout
Posted: Monday, August 8, 2011 1:21:30 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/27/2011
Posts: 35,380
Neurons: 563,379
Location: Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
re 'ther'

Compare this conversation of Christopher Robin with his father:

"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly;
and I hope you
[referring now to readers of this book] do too,
because it is all the explanation you are going to get.


I hope this does away with any clarity that may have arisen before.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 11:15:17 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 17,433
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
phumla -

In oral English the rythm of the language is achieved because words are spoken using either a strong or weak form. Verbs and Nouns usually take on a Strong (i.e. stressed) form, adverbs and adjective sometimes take a strong form, but conjunctions, articles, prepositions are often spoken in their Weak (unstressed) form.

Thee is the strong form of the article 'the' and thuh (using schwa) is the weak form. In its weakest form no vowel sound at all is heard as in "I'm gunna go t'th'shop." (Hard to present that without phonetic symbols!).

I know the others have explained WHEN we use these different forms - but this is WHY we use them. English is not tonal, but it is rhythmic. Native speakers learn with their ears from infancy: through picking up the rythm they grasp what are the important sounds they hear (usually, as stated, the verbs and the nouns).

L2 speakers are usually introduced to English through the eyes (i.e. books/whiteboards/flashcards etc) which is why such difficulties arise.
almostfreebird
Posted: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 1:04:06 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 4/22/2011
Posts: 2,812
Neurons: 7,024
Location: Japan
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