Times change; language changes along with it. But understanding the spoken word is essential to good communication. In these technological times, communication is breaking down. Not being able to correctly pronounce long words may be understandable. But doesn’t it seem absurd so many mispronounce the simple word “the?”
In School During the 60s
During the 1960s, quite a few of the kids in school would pronounce t-h-e as thuh. This is a correct pronunciation of the word, but not in all contexts. Here are a few examples of when and when not to use that pronunciation.
- George ate thuh apple.
- Suzy rode thuh elephant.
- Give Jill thuh banana.
- The gentleman opened thuh door.
Forty Plus Years Later
It is now the 21st Century. Many are now pronouncing t-h-e as thee. Once again, that is a correct way to pronounce the word t-h-e, and may be the result of teachers over-reacting to the overuse of thuh of the 1960s. But the pronunciation thee also is not appropriate in all contexts.
- Throw Jill thee baseball.
- The gentleman opened thee door for thee lady.
- George ate thee apple. [Notice: thee + vowel]
- Suzy rode thee elephant.
Two More Pronunciations
While the above two pronunciations may suffice for many, there are additional gradations or pronunciations of the word t-h-e. One pronunciation is thih. The other is theh. These two variations are used variably by different individuals. For example:
- Joe opened thih gate and approached theh house.
- Shirley ate thih food and drank theh soda.
Pronounce The – Summing It Up
The reader has probably noticed that the superior usage of the various pronunciations of t-h-e is closely aligned with a seamless transition from the article the to the noun to which it is attached. This seamless transition makes the two sound like one continuous word, with no pause in between. Two examples are
- I ate thee apple.
- Billy swung thuh bat at thih ball