“The” is a very common word, and a good word to practice. Read some text, and focus on “the.” To make “the” sound good, it alway needs to be said slowly. “Th” in any word will sound better if you let it have some time. Also, the vowel in “the” is the most common sound in American English, and in “the” it is a very long sound. So practicing “the” will help you get used to making vowels long.
Usually the vowel in “the” is the same as in “hut”, “luck”, and “but”. If “the” is before a word that starts with a vowel sound, the vowel in “the” is the same as in “heat”, “feel”, and “feet”. Here’s more about that vowel. Both these vowel sounds need to be long; the longer you make them, the more American you will sound.
Americans and Canadians like vowels. For good pronunciation and accent reduction, often vowels need to be held for a long time. Listen to some Americans talking, and pay attention to the length of the vowels. For example, listen to this scene from “Scary Movie”:
American English has 14 vowel sounds. The following words all have different vowel sounds and clearly sound different:
fall fell fill feel full fool file foul fail foil foal
hat hot hit heat hut hoot height hate
lack lock lick leak luck look Luke like lake
mat met mitt meet mutt moot might mate moat
Here’s a chart showing more lists of words like these: Vowel Chart
This vowel sound is the name of the letter E, and usually the letter E is part of the vowel.
The vowel in “leave” is made with the mouth almost closed and the tip of the tongue almost touching or slightly touching the back of the bottom front teeth, and the middle of the tongue lightly touching the roof of the mouth.
This sound is represented several ways in written English:
ee, for example feed, bleed, and green
ea, for example peach, leap, and meat
ie, for example thief, brief, and berries
y, at the end of a word, for example many, berry, tiny, salty, family, and rainy.
Usually the letter I makes the vowel sounds in pin or pine. Only rarely does the letter I make another sound; the vowel sound in the words eat and feet; the name of the letter E. That is also an important sound, click here to read about it.
Your tongue should be low in your mouth when saying the vowel sounds in pin or pine. If your tongue is touching your upper teeth or the roof of your mouth, lower the back of your tongue, so that it’s not touching anything. Listen to how the sound changes when you move your tongue. Now you’ll be making a sound that is probably close to the vowel in the word pin. To make this vowel sound, your mouth should be almost closed, and relaxed. The tip of the tongue should be touching or almost touching the back of the lower front teeth.
Here are some more words with the same vowel sound:
Here are some words with the other vowel sound that the letter I makes:
Notice none of the words in the first list have a vowel, for example an E, at the end of the word. However, many in the second list do end in E. The ones that don’t end in E contain a silent GH. (There are exceptions to these patterns.)