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English Grammar and Pronunciation: THE

Grammar: THE

1. Use THE for singular nouns that are known or understood.
The black pen is on my desk.
The kitchen is down the hall.
(This is understood because all homes have a kitchen.)

2. If a descriptive phrase follows a noun, use THE.
The man that was here yesterday has called and wants to talk to you.
The woman in the waiting room has been there for an hour. Someone should see her.

Use THE when a noun has been established.
We planted a tree last year. The tree is growing nicely.

4. Do not use THE after “there is” or “there are.”
There is a black pen on my desk.
There are dark clouds in the sky.

5. Use THE for plural nouns that are known or understood. Do not use THE when the number of things is unknown or unstated.
We looked at a new house today. The rooms were big and the kitchen was nice, but the yard needs work. Weeds and leaves covered the front garden.

These are the basics. Learn more details about When to Use Articles and When Not to Use Articles.

Pronunciation: THE

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For correct pronunciation, say THEE before vowels and THU (U as in "up") before consonants:

thee answer
thu cat
thee elephant
thu house
thee illness
thu man
thee opera
thu plate
thee umbrella
thu wall

American English Pronunciation: Americans are not too particular about pronouncing THE. (British people use these rules more than Americans.) If you did not learn the pronunciation rules as a child, I recommend using "thu" all the time. It causes you to sound more natural and informal.

If you really want to use both pronunciations, you can practice with a book by marking "the" and noticing which sound it should be. If you practice this way for 20 minutes a day, you may gain results.

Read the example below. The words in bold are pronounced THEE and the words that are underlined are pronounced THU.

Here is the desk where you will work. The pencils and pens are on this side. The eraser which works the best is here. The top two drawers have the post-it notes and some other small things. The bottom two drawers have a lock. The key to this lock is kept at the manager's desk. The money that we use for cash transactions is in one drawer and the office checkbook is in the other drawer.


* Extra tip: Americans often use "thee" when something is important, as in "the great actor."

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