Updated: Mar 8, 2020
It looks like a small and simple word. But, wait. There is more to “the” than meets the eye. So I’ve written an article about this - article. There are some rules concerning this small word.
First of all this article, the, is definitely definite. It refers to a specific thing, unlike the indefinite article ‘a/an.’
a/an = indefinite
the = definite
Would you like to have a flower? (any of multiple flowers)
Yes, I’d like the flower with the purple stripes. (one in particular)
Now with this little word, the, it’s not only important what we write, but what we say. We pronounce this word two different ways.
thuh and thee
The rule for when to say thuh and when to say thee is like the rule we use for a and an. If the comes before a word that starts with a consonant sound we say thuh.
the (thuh) rock
the (thuh) coffee
the (thuh) big apple
the (thuh) tall building
We pronounce the with the long ‘e’ sound as thee when it comes before a word that starts with a vowel sound. We say:
the (thee) apple
the (thee) energy
the (thee) individual
the (thee) obvious thing
Now, the detail you don’t want to miss is that I said the consonant sound and the vowel sound. Because in the English language – perhaps just to be contrary- we have vowels that make consonant sounds and consonants that make vowel sounds. My apologies.
There is one other time that we use the thee pronunciation. We also say thee for emphasis regardless of whether it is followed by a vowel or consonant sound.
They make the (thee) best coffee on the planet.
You actually saw the (thee) Tom Cruise, my favorite actor?
No, I actually saw the (thuh) Tom Cruise that cleans our windows.
So hopefully, with all of this information about THE, you will now be completely confident that you can always pronounce thee article correctly!