The Word 'the'

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The word 'the' is the most frequently occurring word in English. It is an article, so it's a function word - which means that it is usually unstressed, or, reduced. It has two different pronunciations. If it comes before a word that begins with a consonant sound, it is pronounced with the schwa [ə]. The voiced TH [ð] and the schwa. The, the. So, to make the voiced TH, the tongue comes through the teeth and a sound is made with the vocal cords. The tongue then pulls back into the schwa, which is a very neutral mouth position. Examples: the best, the last, the one. Now, the word 'one' begins with an O, which is a vowel. But we don't go by spelling, we go by sound. So, the first sound of the word 'one' is actually the W consonant sound. So because it is a consonant, the word 'the' is pronounced with the schwa. The one.

The second pronunciation
is when the following word begins with a vowel or diphthong sound. Here is is pronounced the, with the 'ee' as in 'she' vowel sound [i]. But, because it is usually reduced, or unstressed, it is very short. It's not a long ee: the, the, the, but rather, very quick. Again, it is the voiced TH sound in this word. The. So, the tongue is through the teeth, making sound with the vocal cords, the the.

Examples: the old, the elevator, the honorable. Now, honorable is spelled with an H, which is a consonant, but it's silent. So the first sound here is the 'ah' as in 'father' [α], a vowel sound. So it is pronounced the. The honorable.

As I said, this word
is usually unstressed, or, reduced. And, it links to the word that comes next. The best. So the word, the best, that comes next is going to be higher in pitch, more stressed than the article 'the', which might be reduced to the, the. The best, the honorable. Again, the, the, it's very short. The honorable.

Let's take a look at some sentences with this word. You think the studio will send a limo to pick us up? The sentence: Do you think the studio will send a limo to pick us up? 'Studio' is following the word, it begins with the consonant sound ss, and it is pronounced as the schwa. The. The studio, the studio, linked to that next word. You think the studio will send a limo to pick us up? You think the studio will send a limo to pick us up?

The new Pam is letting her hair down. The new Pam is letting her hair down. 'New' is the word that follows; it begins with a consonant sound, and the word 'the' here is pronounced with the schwa. The new, the new. The new Pam is letting her hair down. The new Pam is letting her hair down.

The remnants of two storms. The remnants of two storms. Remnants begins with an R [ɹ], so 'the' before is pronounced with the schwa. The remnants. It is linked to the word: the remnants. Lower in pitch compared to the word that follows. The remnants. The remnants of two storms. The remnants of two storms.

But officials worry, the public
is not prepared. The public is not prepared. The pronounced with the schwa here, because the next word begins with the P consonant sound. The public, the public. But officials worry, the public is not prepared. But officials worry, the public is not prepared.

Ten weeks into the
Atlantic Hurricane season. Ten weeks into the Atlantic Hurricane season. Here, the word 'the' is followed by the word 'Atlantic', which begins with a vowel sound. So it is pronounced ee, the, rather than with the schwa, uh. The Atlantic. Notice that it still remains very quick: the Atlantic, and it is linked to the next word. Ten weeks into the Atlantic Hurricane season. Ten weeks into the Atlantic Hurricane season.

We are at the exclusive reveal.
The exclusive. The next word, 'exclusive', begins with a vowel sound, so the word T-H-E is pronounced 'the'. The exclusive, the exclusive. We are at the exclusive reveal. We are at the exclusive reveal.

That'll scare the aliens. They're not going to mess with ... That'll scare the aliens. 'Aliens' begins with the 'ay' as in 'say' diphthong. So the word 'the' before it here is pronounced the, the aliens. The aliens. Linked to it, also lower in pitch compared to that next word. The aliens. That'll scare the aliens. They're not going to mess with ... That'll scare the aliens. They're not going to mess with ...

You will find cases where the word 'the' IS stressed. It's brought out of the sentence for emphasis. For example: In terms of The Find... She says The Find, which is the name of the book they're talking about, but it also separates out this one find from all the other finds. As in, this is the find that is going to be memorable, that is the one you're going to be telling people about. For example: I found a $500 table for sale at a garage sale for $4. That would be 'the find'. Sort of, the ultimate.

So, there
are two different pronunciations for the word T-H-E. But in both cases it is almost always spoken very quickly and linked to the next word.

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