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Get ‘thee’ gone!

For the last installment of my trilogy on delivery, I want to weigh in here against a bush-league mistake (in my opinion) that you still hear all over the place — sometimes even from experienced professionals.

How many times have I cringed when I hear a supposed newsreader pronounce the indefinite article (“A thing”) as “Ae” (like the letter of the alphabet) and the definite article (“The thing”) as “Thee”? Nothing is more of a dead giveaway that you are reading (except of course for a “read-y” monotone). Native English speakers almost never pronounce the articles that way, which is to say, it ain’t conversational at all. So always pronounce “A” as “uh” and “the” as “thuh.” Always.

Well, having said that as emphatically as I can, let me admit for ‘thuh’ one exception that I can think of. Regular people sometimes do pronounce the articles as “thee” or “ae” to emphasize them. For example, you often hear it spoken that way in a context like “thee one and only.” So put this rule in that rather large class of “nevers” that have an exception for “to achieve a specific, desired effect.”


  1. …actually, “thee” is perfectly natural when the word “the” is followed by a word that begins with a vowel sound.

    “Huckabee gave a campaign speech Thursday at thuh Alamo” sounds pretty silly as well.

  2. You got me. That is another common and important exception.

  3. I’m with you on “Ae” though. Unless you’re the Fonz, you should never ever make that noise.

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