German Language Blog

Exploring the German letter ß Posted by on Oct 12, 2010 in Language

The German language has a letter that does not appear in its alphabet: the letter ß. Because of its shape the letter ß can be easily mistaken for a B. The ß, pronounced Eszett, is a ligature of the initial- and inner-s and the final-s of the German type font, which was used from the 16th century until about 1940.

Unfortunately, the untruth exists that the letter ß does fully correspond to a double-s. It is true that we can spell a word alternatively with a double-s instead of an ß whenever and wherever it is suitable, e.g. in crossword puzzles or when you do not have an ß-key on your keyboard. Nevertheless, you should avoid overusing it because there is a clear rule when a word has to be spelled with an ß and when with a double-s.

The letter ß has a particular function in the German language. Firstly, it represents a sharp s-sound – just like a double-s. And secondly, it indicates that we have to utter a long vowel before the ß, whereas we utter a short vowel before a double-s. Thus, the spelling of a word can affect both the pronunciation and even the meaning of a word.

Here you can find a video in which I give some example words and their correct pronunciation and spelling. I hope you will find it helpful.

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About the Author: Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


  1. Fernando Salazar:

    ahh, german language one of the most difficult to learn… Yo pensé que sería como el inglés, idioma al que alemán da vida, pero… je pensai que le francais serait plus comme l’espagnol mais il est plus comme l’anglais, les francais mots sont abbondant dans l’anglais!

    Warum no es todo plus facile?

  2. jeff c:

    That it’s for now. he he
    You mean that’s it for now. 😉