German Language Blog

Spell it Well: German s/sch in the middle of a word Posted by on May 13, 2021 in Language, Vocabulary

Last week in Spell it Well, we discussed the use of the s/sch at the beginning of a word. However, there is some weirdness going on with these letters in the middle of words, too! To find out what that’s all about, and how to spell words correctly that deal with this, keep reading!

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s/sch in the middle of a word

s/sch middle word spell it well

Image created by and with permission of Sten Ritterfeld

Let’s dive right in. What does the s/sch look like in the middle of a word, and what does each one sound like?

Compound Nouns

First of all, it depends on whether we have a zusammengesetztes Wort (n, compound word) or not. If the s/sch is the beginning of one of the words in the compound, it is pronounced as such, of course.

How to pronounce that, see the previous post.

For example:

der Gartenschlauch (garden hose)

die Siebenundsiebzig (seventy-seven)

These are pretty straightforward. They only make sense to be pronounced this way. It gets a little harder to discern with words like this:

die Fischschuppe (fish scale)

die Tischschublade (table drawer)

das Liebesspiel (love play)

der Lebensstil (lifestyle)

As you can see, these can get kind of tricky. Pronouncing these words is still not a problem, because – as usually with German compound nouns – you make a short pause between each noun of the compound.

So zusammengesetzte Wörter are one area where we can find the s/sch in the middle of a word. Where else?

Start of a Syllable

The second case where you find the s/sch is when a syllable starts. This is similar to the compound noun, as there is also a little pause between the two parts of the word. In this case, the same rules apply as when the word starts with s/sch:

versprechen (to promise, to misspeak)

verstehen (to understand)

die Aufstellung (assembly, lineup)

der Aufschlag (the markup)

Diminutive Form

The third case where you will frequently see sch in the middle of a word is the Verkleinerungsform (diminutive form). If you want to know more about the Verkleinerungsform, we made a post about it. You’ll get the sch with this form if two conditions are met:

– The base word ends with s;

– The diminutive form is chen.

Then you get this:

das Häuschen (little house)

das Prozesschen (little process)

Note that you pronounce the word and chen, NOT schen!

What if it’s just in the middle or end?

s/sch spell it well

die Touristin (Afbeelding van SplitShire via Pixabay)

When an s/sch is simply in the middle or the end of a word, it’s actually simply pronounced as s/sch – no weirdness there! It’s pronounced as you normally would, even if you’re dealing with an st or sp:

der Tourist (tourist)

gestern (yesterday)

am besten (the best)

sie ist groß (she is tall)

der Osten (East)

Ostern (Easter)

die Ös(eyelet)

das Haschisch (hash)


When you hear an sch, you simply write an sch in these cases. When it’s just an s, you always write the s, no matter if there is an st or sp.

However, there are some German dialects where even the in the middle of a word is pronounced sch – for example, das Festival (Festival) is pronounced das Feschtival in Hessisch (Hessian).

If you want more practice with all this, check out this PDF from DW (you need to download it first to view it).

And that’s it! Do you have difficulty with some German spelling, or is there some weirdness you noticed? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll take a look in a future post!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Derek:

    Illuminating as always, Sten. Thanks for the post. Readers may be interested to note that in Schwabia (the area centered around Stuttgart) the “st” and “sp” in the middle and at the end of the word is routinely pronounced as “scht” and “schp” .
    So for example – Du hascht die beschte Paschtete. Du bischt ein echter Kaschper!

    • Sten:

      @Derek Thanks Derek, and thank you for the valuable addition!