can we sometimes pronounce "the" as "de"

mega21

Member
Persian
Personally I don't have (or I think I don't have) any problem pronouncing "the" as it should be pronounced if it is in the beginning of sentence. However, it is really hard for me to produce same pronunciation of "the" if it is located in the middle of sentence. For example: Close the door. that "the" placed between close and door is killing me specially if I speak a bit fast, it'll be harder. I have watched lots of movies (American&British) and I think even they sometimes pronounce "the" as "de", or at least that sounds to me like that. So, considering all I said, can I simply say: close de door?
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    Can you? Yes, but it will sound unusual to me. There are dialects that say "duh" and "dee" for "the" but if you only spoke that one word in dialect and the rest in standard English it would sound odd.
     
    From my experience most non-native speakers of English don't really worry about the pronunciation. When I was "asking too many questions" (that was the teachers' opinion) in the class about proper pronunciation, teachers scorned me by saying that I'm too "fussy" about it and that it's much more important to know the vocabulary and grammar as I won't ever be able to speak like a native anyway...

    Most of my classmates pronounce the as "dee" or "duh" and nobody seems to have any problem with that (apart from people like me, I guess).
     

    Jam on toast

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    I agree with JamesM that most natural speakers would not say "de" or "dee" unless their dialect normally did that.

    However I can appreciate it's really tricky to get your tongue used to it. Although I can't remember learning it myself, my 7-year old middle child still says "de" for "the" a lot of the time.
     

    mega21

    Member
    Persian
    Disappointing answer, but thanks anyway. So, when I was thinking that sometimes native speakers tend to reduce or simplify their pronunciation when it comes to "the" being in the middle of the sentence, I was wrong?
    Isn't there any word connection or Liaison rule out there to leave room for exception here?
    Do native speakers pronounce the car is blue and close the door 100% the same way?(surely I'm talking about "the", not the rest of the sentence).
    P.S By "de" I meant "duh" not "dee" !
     
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    And many of the French pronounce "th" as /z/ as in /zɪz ɪz ɡʊd/ ("this is good") :)

    Which shows that you may always speak with your native accent and most people won't bother it. However, if you want to mimic natives as much as it's possible, then you obviously need to practise saying /ðə/ in any possible position in the sentence.

    the car is blue /ðə kɑː(r) ɪz bluː/
    close the door /kləʊz ðə dɔː/
     
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    mega21

    Member
    Persian
    Guess I have to try and bear with it or as linguos said just don't mind it, you can't sound like a native speaker anyway! such a sad yet arguable thing to say.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Disappointing answer, but thanks anyway. So, when I was thinking that sometimes native speakers tend to reduce or simplify their pronunciation when it comes to "the" being in the middle of the sentence, I was wrong?
    If we cut anything, I think we tend to cut the length of the "uh" sound.

    Isn't there any word connection or Liaison rule out there to leave room for exception here?
    I imagine it's something like me trying to speak Persian and substituting a simple "k" sound for the "kh" sound. You would probably understand me but it would immediately mark me as a non-native.

    Do native speakers pronounce the car is blue and close the door 100% the same way?(surely I'm talking about "the", not the rest of the sentence).
    If I speak very quickly I might say "Cloze-(th)uh-door" where the "th" is almost silent, but it would still sound different from me saying "cloh-zuh-door", which would come out sounding like "close a door". The "th" can be softened quite a bit but it is still there. Once again, it's probably like the "kh" sound in Persian.


    P.S By "de" I meant "duh" not "dee" !
    Well, you'll need "dee" for things like "the American", "the ocean", "the internet" and all other words that start with a vowel sound. :)
     

    Sedulia

    Senior Member
    **Literate** American English
    Personally I don't have (or I think I don't have) any problem pronouncing "the" as it should be pronounced if it is in the beginning of sentence. However, it is really hard for me to produce same pronunciation of "the" if it is located in the middle of sentence. For example: Close the door. that "the" placed between close and door is killing me specially if I speak a bit fast, it'll be harder. I have watched lots of movies (American&British) and I think even they sometimes pronounce "the" as "de", or at least that sounds to me like that. So, considering all I said, can I simply say: close de door?
    I'm surprised that you think that native speakers ever use "de" for "the"-- are you sure it's not just that you, a non-native speaker, don't hear the difference, like me not hearing the difference between a Hindi b- and bh- ?

    In my experience, native speakers, except some African-Americans and some children, always pronounce "the" with the th-/ð/sound. It's one of the shibboleths of English.

    Try sticking out your tongue, it works!
     

    scrotgrot

    Senior Member
    English - English
    When I first heard /ð/ was fricative I must say I was slightly taken aback, as I often pronounce it more plosively, which if you do it properly tongue between the teeth is in my opinion a different sound to the dental d /d̪ /.

    If you want to produce /θ/ or /ð/ properly, it's not too hard with a bit of practice. /θ/ is easier this way.

    1. Bite the very end of your tongue and force air against it, you'll hear a grunt as the air stops.

    2. Hold it.

    3. Release the pressure of your teeth VERY slightly, making sure they don't leave the surface of your tongue.

    4. Congratulations, you're saying /θ/. Add voicing for /ð/.

    After a bit of practice with some real words you should be able to skip straight to step 3. Personally, I don't get why people find it quite so hard, I don't pretend to be a master of the Arabic /ʕ/ or the Chinese /ɕ/ or anythinɡ, but I imagine if I was seriously trying to learn those languages I could pick them up within a decent timescale.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I never use duh and dee, despite having been raised in Chicago, Illinois, which had something of a reputation for that. For example, Duh Bearse was a comedy line referring to the the Chicago Bears (American) football team on early episodes of the comedy TV show, "Saturday Night Live."

    As far as I know, English is the only language that uses the inter-dental sound for the "th" combination and thus makes it difficult for non-natives to pick up.

    Conversely, monolingual Americans sound really dumb when traveling abroad and try to read words with "th" in France or Germany, for example.

    Note: This does not apply to other cultures and languages where an inter-dental sound exists, but is graphically represented by glyphs other than the Roman "th," such as peninsular Spanish where the "c" can assume that sound, such as in El Cid, cinco, etc.
     
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    Tazzler

    Senior Member
    American English
    As far as I know, English is the only language that uses the inter-dental sound for the "th" combination and thus makes it difficult for non-natives to pick up.
    http://wals.info/feature/19A?s=20&z...=d000&v3=cff0&v4=s00d&v5=cd00&v6=dd00&v7=sd00

    If you remove everything but "th sounds," you'll see a map clearly detaling a good number of languages that possess the sounds. Few enough languages possess them for them to be classified as "uncommon consonants." In Europe especially distribution is rather small, but they do exist in a few languages (Modern Greek, Albanian, Icelandic, Peninsular Spanish).

    Just in case anyone was interested.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    The voiced one is less common though.

    'From my experience most non-native speakers of English don't really worry about the pronunciation. When I was "asking too many questions" (that was the teachers' opinion) in the class about proper pronunciation, teachers scorned me by saying that I'm too "fussy" about it and that it's much more important to know the vocabulary and grammar as I won't ever be able to speak like a native anyway...'

    Well yes, I agree you should learn the grammar and vocab first, but the OP is clearly fluent enough that he can start removing the harsher points of his accent and pronounciation. You can never truly imitate a native speaker so that he thinks you are from the same town as him when learning a foreign language, but you can certainly get to the point where you can convince him that you grew up in the country.
     
    Copperknickers said:
    You can never truly imitate a native speaker so that he thinks you are from the same town as him when learning a foreign language, but you can certainly get to the point where you can convince him that you grew up in the country.
    I wish it were true. I knew an American who flattered me by saying that I sound very British to her. :) She coul tell I wasn't native, but she was surprised to hear that I have never visited the UK. Unfortunately, I gave up on trying to perfect my accent after hearing so many discouraging opinions of my Polish friends and teachers.

    Anyway, I believe there are two major issues here:

    1. People are lazy or they don't think that they could do it. You need to have a good hearing and be able to manipulate your vocal cords flexibly, as it's very hard to learn the new vowels, consonants or diphtongs that don't exist in your mother tongue.

    2. People don't think its worth the time they would have to sacrifice to master their pronunciation. As far as I know, most foreigners are taught the RP accent (if their teachers give any attention to pronunciation at all, which, at least in Poland, is a very rare phenomenom) and it is said that hardly anyone speaks it anymore. Nowadays, it seems OK to have your own accent, no matter how it sounds (and there are some regional accents which are very hard to understand). So today people feel much more confident with their native accent and don't see any need to change it.
     

    AmEStudent

    Senior Member
    Italian/Albanian - bilingual
    I can think of 2 other cases where /ð/ changes depending on the consonant it follows:

    * /t/ what the, some people say it as /wɑt tə/
    */nd/ and that - /æn næt/

    I think it's dialectal though.
     

    mega21

    Member
    Persian
    Thank you all for your answers. And scrotgrot, thanks for your instruction, though I had no problem with it, just when I have to produce it in the middle of sentence. Thanks again, at least I know what is correct now.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    * /t/ what the, some people say it as /wɑt tə/ :( I'm more inclined to accept /wɒðə'hel/
    */nd/ and that - /æn næt/ :( It it very difficult to say "and" in strong form followed by another stressed "that". Unless, of course, you're speaking very slowly while thinking... I would accept /ən'ðæt/ in connected speech
     

    mega21

    Member
    Persian
    Oh, please... not again!. Guys, I think I came across another example which I think I have an issue with. Here is the example (don't blame me if I'm asking again): "Here we are at the zoo". please just some of the native speakers answer me. How can you pronounce this phrase, I mean considering at+the both with correct pronunciation while speaking fast? Say "at the zoo" 5 times as quickly as you can. Aren't you knowingly or unknowingly saying aduhzoo? were your tounge ever placed between your teeth, even a little, to make "th" sound? If you say yes, I want to see you in person to see how you can do it while you say it quickly(somehow joking:))
     
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    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Aren't you knowingly or unknowingly saying aduhzoo.
    No, absolutely not; that would sound like "here were are at a zoo".

    While it is unlikely that everything will be pronounced distinctly, the "th" sound does not disappear; as I would say it, what disappears is the "t" in "at"", and it comes out something like "here we are a' the zoo".
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Oh, please... not again!. Guys, I think I came across another example which I think I have an issue with. Here is the example (don't blame me if I'm asking again): "Here we are at the zoo". please just some of the native speakers answer me. How can you pronounce this phrase, I mean considering at+the both with correct pronunciation while speaking fast? Say "at the zoo" 5 times as quickly as you can. Aren't you knowingly or unknowingly saying aduhzoo? were your tounge ever placed between your teeth, even a little, to make "th" sound? If you say yes, I want to see you in person to see how you can do it while you say it quickly(somehow joking:))
    I make the voiced th sound when saying at the zoo quickly, and I asked a friend of mine to say the phrase quickly and she too pronounced the voiced th sound.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    You can say it that way, but technically it is slang. You would not speak that way in formal settings such when interviewing for a job.
     

    tonyspeed

    Senior Member
    English & Creole - Jamaica
    It isn't slang; it is merely poor diction. Slang and careless pronunciation are two entirely different things.
    It is not poor diction. The pronunciation of th as d is a colloquialism that is characteristic of certain regional forms of English. If you are now to call the pronunciation of entire region or sub-culture "poor", you are now passing your place.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    @Mega21,
    To be honest, I think that it is a counsel of perfection to expect an adult to learn to speak English as a foreign language without an accent. Yes, I have seen people who can and I am very impressed but they are few and far between.

    You have my permission to day 'de' although I also suggest that you practise both forms of 'th' at least 5 times a day. :)
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    It is not poor diction. The pronunciation of th as d is a colloquialism that is characteristic of certain regional forms of English. If you are now to call the pronunciation of entire region or sub-culture "poor", you are now passing your place.
    Your comment was not in response to any statement about using d in place of th, but followed a description of which letters might be dropped in a rapid pronunciation of "here we are at the zoo." In describing how I might pronounce that sentence, I am not "passing my place", and I consider that comment to be not merely unjustified, but insolent. I believe I am in a much better position to comment on my own post than you are. If, in speaking rapidly, I drop the "t" in "at" and say "here we are a' the zoo", it is not any kind of comment on "an entire region or subculture" (indeed, to describe it that way is ludicrous), but it is merely poor diction on my part. Whether you would pronounce the sentence the same way when speaking rapidly is irrelevant; my description was of my own hypothetical pronunciation -- and I claim an absolute right to use the word "poor" in this matter.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    As an English learner, I find the real difficulty for me (perhaps also for the post starter) is not to pronounce "th" separately, but to connect it with consonants such as "s".
    When you native speakers say "close the door" very fast, it seems that the first "s" sound can be weakened, or omitted, or attached to "th". In this way I feel it's easier to say "close the door".
     
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    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    As an English learner, I find the real difficulty for me (perhaps also for the post starter) is not to pronounce "th" separately, but to connect it with consonants such as "s".
    When you native speakers say "close the door" very fast, it seems that the first "s" sound can be weakened, or omitted, or attached to "th". Only in this way it becomes easier to say "close the door".
    In my experience, some Chinese words require mouth movements that don't even exist in English -- and I'm sure the opposite is true. To speak well, I think you need to re-educate your mouth. You can do this by really watching to see what mouths look like when native speakers say English words -- ask someone to exaggerate and slow down the movement for you, or search online for a visual guide. It's really the only way to get it right.

    In your example, it would be rare for me to crunch "close" and "the" together. They are two separate words in "close the door" on almost all occasions.
     
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