There are two ways to pronounce “the” and it’s important to know that the pronunciation changes based on the first sound in the following word. What we say is important, not what we read or write.
When “the” comes before a consonant sound, it’s pronounced “thuh”. When it comes before a vowel sound, it’s pronounced “thee”.
- Thuh Canadian
- Thuh dog
- Thuh man
- Thuh school
- Thee American
- Thee energy
- Thee information
- Thee office
- Thee ugly dog
The tricky part is that the letter “h” can sometimes be silent, and the letter “u” can take either a consonant or a vowel pronunciation, depending on the word.
- Thuh house – hæʊs, consonant sound
- Thuh honey – həniː, consonant sound
- Thee hour – æʊr, silent h, vowel sound
- Thee honest man – ɑnəst, silent h, vowel sound
- Thuh university – ˌjuːnəˈvərsətiː, consonant sound
- Thuh unique antique – jʊˈniːk, consonant sound
- Thee umpire – əmˌpaɪr, vowel sound
- Thee umbrella – əmˈbrelə, vowel sound
Also, when pronouncing initials, it depends how you pronounce the first letter, not what you see.
- Thuh CBC – siː, consonant sound
- Thuh WWF – dəbəljuː, consonant sound
- Thee NBA – en, vowel sound
- Thee SPCA – es, vowel sound
When we want to emphasize a specific word, we use “thee” no matter what sound follows.
- He’s THEE best boyfriend ever!
- I just met THEE president!
- I had THEE time of my life last night!