Pronunciation - Introduction

Before we get to the details of phonetic script, we will start with some general rules of the pronunciation of the German language.

In the phonetic script used on this website, the stressed syllable of a word is marked with ' in front of the respective syllable. Here is an example:

German Phonetic Script English Translation
kommen ['kɔmən] to come (infinitive)
Here, the first syllable "kom" is the stressed syllable. The sign ' is always in front of the stressed syllable.

If a word has only one syllable, we do not mark the syllable with '. We just use the mark for words with two or more syllables.

Generally, you can say that in the German etymons (basic words), the first syllable is stressed, as in our first example above. Important: Flexion (declension of nouns, conjugation of verbs) does not influence the stress.

But there are some syllables which are stressed. Below please find a list of the stressed syllables with some examples of verbs and nouns.

List of stressed prefixes:

Prefix Verbs Phonetic Script English Nouns Phonetic Script English
ab- abschneiden ['apʃnaidən] to cut off Abschnitt m ['apʃnɪt] section
an- anführen ['anfy:rən] to lead Anführer m ['anfy:rɐ] leader
auf- aufdrucken ['aufdrʊkən] to print on Aufdruck m ['aufdrʊk] imprint
aus- ausbilden ['ausbɪldən] to instruct Ausbilder m ['ausbɪldɐ] instructor
bei- beifügen ['baify:gən] to enclose Beifügung f ['baify:gʊŋ] enclosure
da- dasein ['da:zain] to be there Dasein nt ['da:zain] existence
dar- darbieten ['da:ɐbi:tən] to perform Darbietung f ['da:ɐbi:tʊŋ] performance
ein- einführen ['ainfy:rən] to import Einfuhr f ['ainfu:ə] import
empor- emporkommen [ɛm'po:ɐkɔmən] to rise (up) Emporkömmling m [ɛm'po:ɐkœmlɪŋ] upstart, parvenu
fort- fortschreiten ['fɔrtʃraitən] to progress Fortschritt m ['fɔrtʃrɪt] progress
her- herstellen ['he:ɐʃtɛlən] to produce Herstellung f ['he:ɐʃtɛlʊŋ] production
hin- hinweisen ['hɪnvaizən] to point out Hinweis m ['hɪnvais] tip
los- loswerden ['lo:sve:ɐdən] to get rid of - - -
mit- mitreisen ['mɪtraizən] to travel with Mitreisender m ['mɪtraizəndɐ] fellow traveller
nach- nachahmen ['na:xʔa:mən] to imitate Nachahmung f ['na:xʔa:mʊŋ] imitation
nieder- niederschreiben ['ni:dɐʃraibən] to write down Niederschrift f ['ni:dɐʃrɪft] writing down
vor- vorbereiten ['fɔɐbəraitən] to prepare Vorbereitung f ['fɔɐbəraitʊŋ] preparation
weg- wegnehmen ['vɛkne:mən] to take away Wegnahme f ['vɛkna:mə] removal
weiter- weitersagen ['vaitɐza:gən] to pass on Weiterbildung f ['vaitɐbɪldʊŋ] further education
wieder- wiedergeben ['vi:dɐge:bən] to give back Wiedergabe f ['vi:dɐga:bə] return
zu- zugeben ['tsu:ge:bən] to admit Zugabe f ['tsu:ga:bə] extra, bonus

The prefixes um- (in verbs and nouns) and un- (in adjectives/adverbs) are stressed in most cases.

As mentioned before, these prefixes are usually stressed unless two of them are combined. Then the second prefix is stressed like in the following example:

Basic verb Phonetic Script English
kommen ['kɔmən] to come
Combined with prefix an Phonetic Script English
ankommen ['ankɔmən] to arrive
Combined with prefix her and aus Phonetic Script English
herauskommen [hɛ'rauskɔmən] to come out

So once again, the syllable printed in bold is the stressed syllable.

kommen ankommen herauskommen

There are also some syllables which are always stressed: -ei, -ieren and ur-.

Other stressed prefixes and suffixes:
Prefix Verbs Phonetic Script English Nouns Phonetic Script English
-ei       Metzgerei f ['mɛtsgə'rai] butcher shop
-ieren kopieren [ko'pi:rən] to copy Kopierer m [ko'pi:rɐ] copier
ur-       Urkunde f ['u:əkʊndə] document

However, there are two syllables which are unstressed in front of verbs and stressed in front of nouns: miss and wider.

Prefixes unstressed with verbs and stressed with nouns:
Prefix Verbs Phonetic Script English Nouns Phonetic Script English
miss- missfallen [mɪs'falən] to arouse displeasure Missfallen nt (!) ['mɪsfalən] displeasure
wider- widerstehen [vi:dɐ'ʃte:ən] to resist Widerstand m (!) ['vi:dɐ'ʃtant] resistance

So once again, the syllable in bold type is the stressed syllable.

missfallen Missfallen nt widerstehen Widerstand m

There are many other prefixes and suffixes used for verbs, nouns and adjectives which are unstressed but not mentioned here as this may cause confusion at the beginning. That is why we only mentioned the exceptions on this site. For further information please go to the respective grammar pages.

You will find more about pronunciation about the German phones, letters and letter combinations on the pronunciation sites.