How do we pronounce THE in sentences? I heard that THE can be pronounced as "tha" and "thee".
What is the criteria for pronouning as such?
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If the following word starts with a vowel sound, you pronounce it “thee”. For example, in the end and the hour, “the” is pronounced with a long ē.
If the following word starts with a consonant sound, you pronounce it “thə”. For example, in the beginning and the uterus, “the” is pronounced with a schwa.
Notice that the following word’s spelling doesn’t matter. What matters is the pronunciation.
In both situations, the is unstressed.
The reason for the different pronunciations is euphony: it sounds ugly in English to follow a schwa with a vowel. When you pronounce a schwa followed by another vowel, as in ultra-atomic, usually you separate them with a glottal stop, which is felt to be ugly in English, though sometimes necessary. When pronouncing the with a long ē before a vowel, the ē flows smoothly into the following vowel.
Some people do pronounce the with a schwa before a vowel. It sounds crude, and suggests that the speaker lacks aesthetic sense.
The can be pronounced with a long ē before a consonant, as well as stressed, for special emphasis, to indicate that something is unique and special. “The schedule says we’re meeting Michelle Obama at 2:00. Does it mean the Michelle Obama?” The emphatic pronunciation distinguishes the U.S. president’s wife from other people who might be named Michelle Obama.
See also this ELU question.