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The German Alphabet (das deutsche Alphabet)

In this lesson, you will learn the German alphabet, what the letters sound like, and how they are written.

The German Alphabet

The German alphabet contains some notable differences compared to English, but it’s relatively simple to learn.

Letters in the English alphabet are also found in German. While some letters are pronounced quite similarly to English, some differ slightly.

However, there are four more letters in the German alphabet that English does not have (ä, ö, ü, and ß). Three of these are known as Umlaut (ä, Ä, ö, Ü, ü), while the other is known as Eszett or scharfes S (ß).

❗ Do not confuse the letter ß (Eszett) with the Greek letter β (beta).

If your keyboard does not contain ä, ö, ü, and ß, you can use ae, oe, ue, and ss instead, respectively. However, it is still possible to write them:
Alt + 0196 = Ä
Alt + 0228 = ä
Alt + 0214 = Ö
Alt + 0246 = ö
Alt + 0220 = Ü
Alt + 0252 = ü
Alt + 0223 = ß

German is spoken as a mother tongue in Germany and European countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and Austria.

❗ The ß letter is no longer used in Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Instead of the ß, an ss is written there.

UppercaseLowercaseIPAExample
Aa[a:] Apfel
Bb[be:] Banane
Cc[tse:] Couch
Dd[de:] Deutsch
Ee[e:] Elefant
Ff[εf] Fisch
Gg[ge:] Gitarre
Hh[ha:] Haus
Ii[i:] Igel
Jj[jοt] Joghurt
Kk[ka:] Kaffee
Ll[εl] Liebe
Mm[εm] Mann
Nn[εn] Nagel
Oo[o:] Orange
Pp[pe:] Pinguine
Qq[ku:] Quiz
Rr[εr:] Rot
Ss[εs] Sonne
Tt[te:] Tee
Uu[u:] Uhr
Vv[fau:] Vogel
Ww[ve:] Wolke
Xx[iks] Xylofon
Yy[ypsilεn] Yak
Zz[tsεt] Zebra
ÄäA-Umlaut Bär
ÖöO-Umlaut Öl
ÜüU-Umlaut Fünf
ßEszett Fuß
The German Alphabet

❗ All letters of the German alphabet have the same article: das.
das A
das B
das C and so on

Diphthongs in German

A diphthong (meaning “two sounds” in Greek), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable.

There are four diphthongs in the German alphabet: EI, IE, AU, and EU. By learning to pronounce these four letters in German, you can speak more fluently and with a better accent.

ie

The combination of the German letters “i” and “e” produces a sound similar to the English word “sheep”.

vielmuch
siebenseven
Liebelove
wiehow
WienVienna
IE

ei

ei” diphthong is pronounced like the y in the English word “my.”

eina
arbeitento work
deinyour
heißebe called
Weinwine
EI

au

Au produces a sound similar to “ow” in the English word “now

blaublue
Frauwoman
bauenbuilt
Bauerfarmer
Augeeye
AU

eu (äu)

The combination of the letters “e” and “u” gives a sound like the “oy” in the English word “boy

heutetoday
euereyours
neunew
freuenbe happy
Euroeuro
Fräulein young lady
EU ( ÄU)

Consonant Combinations in German

There are a few combinations of consonants that generate specific sounds in German. These are tsch, dsch, sch, ch, sp, and st.

tsch

The combination of the letters “tsch” produces a sound similar to “ch” in the English word “which

DeutschGerman
DeutschlandGermany
Dolmetscherinterpreter
tsch

dsch

Dschungeljungle
tsch

sch

sch generates a sound of “sh” like in the English word “show”

Schuleschool
Tischtable
TürkischTurkish
sch

chs

The combination of “chs” produces a sound similar to the letter “x”.

sechssix
Fuchsfox
Wachswax
chs

ch

ichI
michme
Nachtnight
ch

ck

Stückpiece
Stickersticker
Picknickpicnic
ck

st

startto start
Stadtcity
Straßestreet
st

sp

SportSports
SpanienSpain
spielento play
sp

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