Language Traps- The vs Thee

This blog post is all about pronunciation. That’s a bit tricky to do because you can’t hear the words as they are used and described. For clarity, I am going to differentiate between ‘the’ and ‘the’ by spelling one of these words as ‘thee’ because that spelling reflects the pronunciation of the word. The word ‘thee’ is a word in and of itself. ‘Thee’ is an archaic word that isn’t really used anymore unless you are writing some Shakespearean Renaissance Faire script.  From here forward ‘the’ and ‘thee’ are going to be used to talk about the article ‘the’. When you are writing, they are spelled the same, but they are pronounced differently.

To use ‘the’ and ‘thee’ correctly, you need to understand vowel sounds. Words that begin with ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘I’, ‘o’, and ‘u’ tend to start with a vowel sound. There are a couple of tricky consonants that you need to look out for as well. ‘H’ and ‘f’ are notorious language tricksters. Think of the word ‘hour’. If you were using this word with a different article, ‘a’ or ‘an’, you would use ‘an.’

For any word that you would use the article ‘a’, you use the pronunciation ‘the.’ If you were using a word that requires the article ‘an,’ you use the pronunciation ‘thee.’

Here are a couple of examples:

“We will resume the music at the top of thee hour.”

“The unicorn stamped its foot upon the ground to summon forth an elm tree.”

The next time you listen to a speaker, see if you can hear the difference? If you are taking on the role of Grammarian at a Toastmasters meeting, perhaps this little tip will help you help the speakers in your club. Good luck and happy listening!

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