The vowel sounds a, o, u and au can all take an umlaut to become ä, ö, ü and äu. Here's how the umlaut changes the pronunciation:

  • The vowel a is pronounced "ah". The vowel ä is pronounced more like "eh":

wir hatten / wir hätten

we had / we would have

der Nagel / die Nägel

the nail / the nails

sagen / sägen

to say / to saw

  • The vowel o is pronounced "oh". The vowel ö is pronounced like this:

wir mochten / wir möchten

we liked / we would like

groß / größer

big / bigger

der Vogel / die Vögel

the bird / the birds

  • The vowel u is pronounced like "ooh", with the tongue low in the mouth. The vowel ü is pronounced with the tongue higher in the mouth.

die Mutter / die Mütter

the mother / the mothers

jung / jünger

young / younger

sie fuhren / sie führen

they were driving / they are leading

  • The vowel sound au is pronounced like the English "ow". The vowel sound äu is pronounced like "oi".

tauschen / täuschen

to swap, to exchange / to deceive, to trick

ihr lauft / du läufst

you walk (plural) / you walk (singular)

Remember: umlauts are letters in their own right and can completely alter the meaning of a word!

Wir singen schon.

We are singing already.

Wir singen schön.

We are singing beautifully.

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