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German Diphthongs

List of all topics in the level A1

This unit contains the following topics:

  1. Diphthongs in the German language
    1. EI
    2. IE
    3. AU
    4. EU
  2. Consonant combinations in German
    1. tsch
    2. sch
    3. sp
    4. st
    5. ch
  3. German words ending in ion

The focus of this lesson is to master the pronunciations of diphthongs and specific constant combinations in the German language. By the end of this lesson, you will have gained the following skills:

  1. How to pronounce German diphthongs (i.e., combinations of vowels)?
    EI, IE, AU and EU.
  2. How to pronounce the German consonant combinations, i.e. tsch, sch, ch, sp, and st.

In this lesson, the emphasis is primarily on mastering these combinations and their respective pronunciations, with less emphasis on vocabulary acquisition.

Get your book's course book with extended exercises and explanations

1. German diphthongs pronunciation guide

A diphthong is a distinctive sound produced when two vowels come together within a single syllable. German diphthongs of significance include:

EI, IE, AU, and EU.


The combination of German vowels e and i always produces a sound similar to the English word “eye”. For example:


The German diphthong ie generates a sound similar to the English combination “ee” in the words "flee" or "free". For example:


The Combination of German vowels a and u produces a sound similar to “ow” in the English word cow or now. For example:


The diphthong formed by the combination of vowels e and u produces a sound similar to “oy” in the English words boy or joy.


The same is the case for the combination äu because, in German, the letter a with an umlaut (ä) generates a sound similar to the German letter e.

Video summary of German diphthongs

2. Consonant combinations in German

Like German diphthongs, there exist certain consonant combinations that produce distinct sounds. For English speakers, mastering these combinations poses no significant challenge. These combinations are:

tsch, sch, ch, sp and st.


The combination of the German letters tsch always delivers a sound similar to “ch” in the English words which or switch. For example:


The combination of letters sch generates a tone, that equals the English combination “sh”, i.e., in the word show. For example:


When the German letter S comes before the letter P at the beginning of a word or a syllable, it gives a tone similar to the above-discussed consonant combination sch. For example:


Similarly, when the German letter S comes before the letter T at the beginning of a word or a syllable, it gives a sound of the combination sch. Please see the following examples.

ch pronunciation in German

In normal conditions, the combination of German consonants c and h results in an identical sound to that of the sch combination. For example:

However, the following are two cases in which the sound of consonant combination ch changes.

i. ch pronunciation after a, o, u and au

It is important to note that when the consonant pair of c and h occurs after the vowels a, o, or u, it sounds somewhat similar to the combination of “ck” in the English word sick. The exact German tone of ch after a, o, and au does not exist in English. Vowels in German are the same letters as in English, i.e., a, e, i, o, and u. However, when the ch combination follows the vowels e and i, it produces the “sch” sound.

ii. ch sound before the letter s (ch+s)

The combination ch before the consonant s gives the sound of the letter "x". For example:

German words ending in ion

Ion is not a consonant combination, but it delivers a unique sound. That's why it's important to discuss in this lesson.

The combination of ion gives the sound of “eon”, like in the English word Neon. Below are some example words ending in ion. The meanings of all the following words are the same as their English counterparts.

  1. Addition
  2. Aggression
  3. Definition
  4. Demonstration
  5. Depression
  6. Emotion
  7. Evolution
  8. Explosion
  9. Generation
  10. Illusion
  11. Information

The following video is a summary of the above topic "consonant combinations in German"

Vocabulary building

Hallo (hello)

Hallo (hello)

Ist das Auto ein Taxi? (Is this car a taxi?)

Nein, das ist mein Privatauto. (No, this is my private car.)

Warum ist das gelb? (Why is this yellow?)

Das ist grün nicht gelb. (This is green, not yellow.)

Ja, aber die Reifen sind schwarz. (Yes, but the tires are black.)

Die Reifen sind immer schwarz. (Tires are always black.)

Mein Auto ist schwarz und die Reifen sind weiß. (My car is black and tires are white.)

Unglaublich. (Unbelievable.)

Wortschatz (Vocabulary)

ein (a/an indefinite article)

warum (why)

gelb (yellow), grün (green), schwarz (black), weiß (white)

nicht (not)

die Reifen (the tires, German nouns are always capitalized. There is no distinction between proper and improper nouns.)

die (the / "die" is a definite article, used with all plural nouns and singular feminine nouns. German nouns have three genders i.e. masculine, feminine and neuter, and three definite articles for these three genders )

ist (is), sind (are)

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