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Actually, I know the main rules of pronouncing the:

  • Before consonants, it is pronounced /ðə/ : the kitten

  • Before vowels, it is pronounced /ði/ : the address

  • For putting emphasis, it is pronounced /ði/

(According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

But is it ok to pronounce it /ði/ occasionally, even if the word starts with a consonant and there is no emphasis? I mean can it sometimes be a matter of style maybe? Or is it considered totally wrong?

And when it's pronounced /ði/ to show emphasis, which is stressed? The word that comes after 'the' or 'the' itself?

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    I would say the rules are valid and those are what you should follow as a learner. You can't really go wrong if you use them that way. However, if you use /ði/ before a consonant, it will be perceived as emphasis, and perhaps a little odd if you don't actually intend emphasis.
    – Billy Kerr
    Sep 3, 2022 at 21:41

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Most native speakers are not familiar with those phonetic symbols, so I shall include a more familiar style:

  1. /ðə/ for 'the' before consonants is often represented as 'thuh' - the kitten, the car.

  2. /ði/ for 'the' before vowels is often represented as 'thee' - the earth, the apple, the open door.

  3. /ði/ ('thee') before vowels or consonants is used for emphasis, and the emphasis is on the:

I am going to have a beer with Tom Hanks.
What, the Tom Hanks? The movie star?
No, Thomas J Hanks, a taxi driver.

If you use /ði/ ('thee') before consonants 'occasionally' for reasons of 'style', many people will think you can't speak English very well. It is wrong in standard English. Also, using /ðə/ ('thuh') before vowels is regarded by many as a non-standard dialect usage, and speakers who do it, do so consistently (that is, it's not a style choice, it's how they speak).

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  • So 'the' before a consonant is always pronounced 'thuh',/ðə/, and never 'thee', /ði/, unless you want to put emphasis on the word? Sep 3, 2022 at 21:12
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    @Englishfreak Always, unless you're Kermit thee Frog, whose manner of speech is memorable in part because no one actually talks like that. Sep 3, 2022 at 21:29
  • It can be very hard to identify the actual vowel sound in an unstressed word. There is quite is bit of variation between speakers and dialects. I'd note particularly the Yorkshire dialect, in which definite articles are often reduced to "t" or just a glottal-stop.
    – James K
    Sep 3, 2022 at 21:33
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    But for a learner, those rules will work fine. You won't mispronounce anything by following those rules.
    – James K
    Sep 3, 2022 at 21:37
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    @gonefishin'again. - according to Wikipedia, the 'thee' is just a visual style thing, and her stage name is pronounced "Megan the Stallion". Sep 4, 2022 at 9:23

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