I am not a native speaker, when I was a child on of my friends use to pronounce "the" as "thee" all the time and the teacher kept telling her that you she should do that only if the word after "the" starts with a vowel. Like "Thee injection", "Thee orbit" other wise it's "The umbrella" and "The pen".

Years later I found out that English speakers specify or empathize by saying "Thee". Is this proper?

  • Are you comparing the two pronunciations of "the." 'The' that rhymes with 'bee' and 'the' that rhymes with 'duh'? – Andrew Jun 24 '15 at 17:50
  • I would say "thee" umbrella but "thuh" pen - "uh" is a vowel sound. – wizzwizz4 Nov 4 '17 at 18:37

If a speaker wants to emphasize nouns he can use the emphatic forms of the articles:

Air, water, soil are ˈthe /ðiː/ problems of our century.
That's ˈthe /ðiː/ idea.

This emphatic the is pronounced with a long /i/, whereas the the before vowels is pronounced with short /i/:

the egg /ði eg/

The indefinite article also has an emphatic form /eɪ/:

ˈA /eɪ/ wonder!

Of course, that is a thing you can hear sometimes in public speeches. I would not use it as a non-native in normal language.


According to Merriam-Webster, the is pronounced as:

  • 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

So yes, if the word following the starts with a consonant, it is normally pronounced as thə (like 'duh') and before vowels as thē (like 'see'). If you want to emphasize, you can also use ˈthē. Note that the ' before it signifies aspiration, which is not normally the case when pronouncing the. It may be a small difference, but it is one that can definitely be heard in speech and will make a difference in the hearer's interpretation.


The "before consonants" and "before vowels" rule is incorrect. Similar to the use of "a" and "an", thē should be before consonant sounds, and thə should be before vowel sounds. (e.g. "thə NFL" and "thē Euro")

  • No, your description is the one that is incorrect. – sumelic Jun 29 '15 at 2:12

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