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Pronunciation of Definite and Indefinite Articles in English

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The pronunciation of the articles English is different depending on where they appear in the sentence and how you emphasize them. The differences are small, but speakers of English know the differences naturally.

In this lesson, you will learn each situation where you pronounce the definite ( “the”) and indefinite articles ( “a” and “an”) differently.


Pronunciation Rules for the Definite Article “the”

The pronunciation of the definite article “the” changes depending on how you use it and on the word that follows it.

Pronunciation of “the”

”The” by itself

If you say “the” by itself, it is pronounced .

Notice the /j/ sound at the end. It has the Y-sound. It makes the /i/ in “the” long.

”The” before a consonant sound

If “the” comes before a word that starts with a consonant, it is not stressed, so you pronounce it you pronounce it .

For example, you say

the lesson → /ðəˈlɛsən/

the woman → /ðəˈwʊmən/

the school → /ðəˈskul/

”The” before a vowel

Pronounce “the” before vowel sounds.

In connected speech, you can hear the /j/ (the Y-sound) very well because it connects to the vowel in the next word.

For example, you say

the apple → /ðiˈjæpəl/

the actor → /ðiˈjæktɚ/

the hour → /ðiˈjawɚ/

Stressing ”the” for emphasis

If you emphasize the word “the,” it is pronounced . It does not matter if it comes before a consonant or a vowel.

Let’s see more examples of “the” in different situations.

More examples of “the”

1. “The” /ðə/ followed by consonant sounds
  • the cake → /ðəˈkeɪk/
  • the fork → /ðəˈfɔrk/
  • the woman → /ðəˈwʊmən/
  • the lesson → /ðəˈlɛsən/
  • the university → /ðəˈjuːnəˈvɚsəti/

Note. The letter “U” is a vowel in spelling but, in the “university,” it is has a consonant in pronunciation. /ju/ has a “Y” sound, which is a consonant.

2. “The” /ðij/ followed by vowel sounds
  • the apple cake → /ðiˈjæpəl keɪk/
  • the → orange → /ðiˈjɔrɪnʤ/
  • the ugly dog → /ðiˈjʌgli ˈdɑːg/
  • the Earth → /ðiˈjɚθ/
  • the hour → /ðiˈjawɚ/
  • the honest man → /ðiˈjɑnɪst ˈmæn/

Note. The letter “H” is a consonant but, in pronunciation, the words “hour” and “honest” start with a vowel sounds because the Hs are not pronounced.

3. Stressing “the” /ðij/ for emphasis
  • He is not just a good teacher. He is the teacher everyone needs to have. (Pronounced /ˈðiː ˈtitʃɚ/ to emphasize that he is a great teacher.)
  • There are many ways to do this. I’ll teach you the way to do it. (Pronounced /ˈðiː ˈweɪ/ to emphasize that it is the best way.)

Pronunciation Rules for the Indefinite Articles “a” or “an”

Pronunciation rules for the article “a” or “an”






Pronunciation of the Indefinite Articles “A” and “An”

Think of the indefinite article as just the word “a,” but you add an N-sound when the word after it starts with a vowel sound. That sound is also in writing, so “a” becomes “an”.

Pronouncing “A”

  • Pronounce “a” in normal, connected speech.
  • Pronounce “a” when you say the word by itself or when you want to emphasize it. Some people also pronounce it /ˈeɪ/ normally.

Pronouncing “AN”

  • Pronounce “a” when you say the word by itself or when you want to emphasize it. Some people also pronounce it /'æn/ normally, especially if they are speaking slowly and carefully.
  • Usually, you pronounce “an” in normal, connected speech.

More examples of “a” and “an”

“A” followed by consonant sounds
  • a cake → /əˈkeɪk/
  • a fork → /əˈfɔrk/
  • a woman → /əˈwʊmən/
  • a lesson → /əˈlɛsən/
  • a university → /əˈjuːnəˈvɚsəti/

Note. The letter “U” in “university” is a vowel in spelling, but it is as a consonant in pronounciation: /ju/ has a “Y” sound, which is a consonant.

“AN” followed by vowel sounds
  • an apple cake → /ənˈæpəl keɪk/
  • an orange → /ən'ɔrɪnʤ/
  • an ugly dog → /ən'ʌgli dɑːg/
  • an English movie → /ən'ɪŋglɪʃ 'mu:vi/

Assess Your Learning

Practice 1. Practice the pronunciation of ^the” and assess your understanding of this lesson.

Congratulations on completing this lesson!

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