An umlaut is an accent mark that goes over a letter to change the sound. It looks like two dots above the letter. In German this can be added to the letters “A”, “O”, and “U” to create “Ä”, “Ö”, and “Ü”. The effect of the umlaut is like adding the letter “E” behind the vowel. This not only explains why the pronunciation is the same as the long vowel letter mixed with an “E”, but it also explains why it is acceptable to write “AE”, “OE”, or “UE” instead of “A”, “O”, or “U” if you don’t have the umlaut option on your keyboard. 


The “Ä” is the easiest to pronounce for English speakers, because it sounds exactly like the German long “E” sound and is most closely related to the English long “A” sound. 

Long Ä Examples: 

spät [ʃpɛːt] - late 

erklären [ɛɐ̯ˈklɛːʀən] - to explain 

das Mädchen [ˈmɛːtçən] - girl 

Short Ä Examples: 

das Geschäft [ɡəˈʃɛft] - shop, store

die Äpfel - apple

die Männer [/ˈmɛnɐ/]- men

die Bänke [/ˈbɛŋkə/] - benches

die Hände [/ˈhɛndə/] - hands


The letter “O” can also take an umlaut, which is a bit more difficult to pronounce than the “A” with an umlaut. Start with the long “O” sound and then bring your tongue up to meet your teeth. Another way to think about it is combining the German long “O” and the English long “E” sound. Say them back-to-back, faster and faster until they form one sound. The result should be the “Ö” sound. 

Long Ö Examples:

die Flöte [/ˈfløːtə/] - flute

blöd [/bløːt/] - stupid

böse [/ˈbøːzə/] - evil

stöhnen [/ˈʃtøːnən/] - to groan

Short Ö Examples:

die Stöcke [/ʃtøkə/] - sticks

der Löffel [/ˈløfːəl/] - spoon

die Öffnung [/ˈœfnʊŋ/] - opening


The “U” umlaut is pronounced in a similar way to the “O” with an umlaut. Start with your mouth in the position for the German long “U” and push your tongue to the edge of your teeth, or start with the German long “U” sound and add an English long “E” to the end of it or. Mix the two letters together until they become one. The end result is really more closely related to the sound of an English short “I” than the “U”. 

Long Ü Examples:

früh [fryː] - early

die Tür [/tyːr/]- door

grün /ɡʁyːn/ - green

über [ˈyːbɐ] - over 

Short Ü Examples:

das Stück [/ʃtʏk/]- piece

die Münze [ˈmʏnt͡sə]- coin

die Brücke [/ˈbʁʏkə/]- bridge

dünn [/dʏn/]- thin

Complete and Continue