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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
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
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
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".
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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