Pronunciation of "a" Stress vs. unstressed

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India - Hindi & English
How do I know when in a sentence 'a' should be pronounced as unstressed, and when should I stress it? Should I stress it before a vowel, and un-stress it before a consonant?

Same question for 'the'

Thanks. :)
  • Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    The articles "a" and "the" are almost never stressed.
    You might stress "the" to mean "the famous".
    In the unlikely event that someone told me "I have a neighbor named Barack Obama",
    I might ask "Is it the Barack Obama?"
    Of course before a vowel sound you will not have "a", but rather "an".


    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    The only reason for stressing "a" that comes to mind is in somthing like the following:

    "Do you have the book?"
    "I have a book, but I don't know if it's the book - which one do you mean?"


    Senior Member

    With all respect to Cenzontle, there are lots of possible contexts in which a stress is needed, though admittedly more often with the definite ("the") than with the indefinite ("a") article.

    "Do you have a set of spanners?" "Well I have a spanner". This stresses the (grammatical as well as physical) singularity of the spanner.

    "Do you live next to a Barack Obama?" "I live next to the Barack Obama".

    Note that (at least in BrE the pronunciation of the vowel will change: emphatic "a" rhymes with "hay", "may" &c. Emphatic "the" is identically pronounced with "thee".


    India - Hindi & English
    Greetings once more

    With reference to chagmagus' query (#4):

    In "The ashes...", the word "the" is not stressed. The lengthened pronunciation of the vowel is because the next word begins with a vowel.
    Thanks. Finally, I know the truth. :D
    So I suppose if the next word is a consonant then 'the' would be a 'shortened pronunciation'?
    Does the same go for 'a'?


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    'The ashes' would normally be /ðɪ ˈæʃɪz/. The 'the' can still be stressed to produce /ˈðiː ˈæʃɪz/
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