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    #1

    Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    I was taught to pronounce 'the' in the weak form as ə (thuh) before a consonant sound (the house, the year), and i (thee) before a vowel sound (the umbrella, the hour). But what's the pronunciation of 'the' in the following words: 'the university', 'the University of California', 'the UN', 'the United States', 'the United Kingdom?' The sound after 'the' in these words is juː and according to the rule, 'the' should be pronounced as ə. However, because my Longman Dictionary has pronunciations of the example sentences, I tried to listen and noticed that the pronunciation of 'the' in these cases seems more similar to i than ə.
    I'd like to know how you pronounce 'the' in the cases I just proposed.
    PS: If there are any errors in my post, please let me know.
    Thanks very much.

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    The rule as you understand it applies in most cases, but context can allow differences. I might say 'Cambridge is THE University for studying modern languages'; in this case the pronunciation would be /i: ju:.../.

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    #3

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    The rule as you understand it applies in most cases, but context can allow differences. I might say 'Cambridge is THE University for studying modern languages'; in this case the pronunciation would be /i: ju:.../.
    b
    Do you mean the strong form of 'the' to emphasize? I already knew the strong form of 'the'. I just wonder about the weak form of 'the' in the cases above.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    Yes. The example was badly chosen. (But the point about context holds good. Also, it differs from speaker to speaker; the headmaster at my primary school (a northerner or Scot - I was too young to note which) always used the strong form.

    b

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Also, it differs from speaker to speaker; the headmaster at my primary school (a northerner or Scot - I was too young to note which) always used the strong form.
    I worked with a colleague from southern Africa who always used the schwa-form even before vowels. She used a glottal stop between the schwa and the initial vowel of the following word.

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    #6

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    I would use the same form of "the" before "university" as I do before "year" because the word sounds as if it starts with the "y" sound.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 15-Jul-2012 at 00:56. Reason: typo or two
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

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    #7

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    Actually, both are correct. I am a native English speaker... and this is a very good question. After saying both types of 'the', I could not say which one I would use. To be completely honest, 'the' is pronounced somewhere in between 'thu' and 'thee', but slightly closer to 'thu'.

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    #8

    Re: Pronunciation of 'the' before 'u'

    Quote Originally Posted by Natalie1991 View Post
    To be completely honest, 'the' is pronounced somewhere in between 'thu' and 'thee', but slightly closer to 'thu'.
    Do you mean in general or before /ju:/? In any case, "'the' is pronounced" is too general. You should have written "I pronounce 'the'" instead. The pronunciation of "the" varies.

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