When does one use an Eszett (ß) instead of "ss"

I should probably know this already, but anyway, I'm confused about when to use an Eszett instead of just a double "s". I've heard that it has to do with the vowel it follows, but when I come across words like "passende, Straße, dass, aß ....etc" there seems to be no consistency. In addition, usually I see the word "dass" spelled without an eszett, but every now and then I'll see it spelled "daß" which to me, looks completely wrong.

Many thanks :)


November 29, 2016


Sorted by top thread

A short overview:
1) After long vowels and diphtongs (ei, au, eu): ß 2) After short vowels: "ss"

Fuß (foot, long u), but Fluss (river, short u)
heiß (hot, diphtong), draußen (outside, diphtong), Preußen (Prussia, diphtong)
Masse (mass, short a), Maße (dimensions, long a)

November 29, 2016

The old rules were a bit more difficult and I don't really know them, but with the new spelling rules the rule is quite simple. Does the "s" sound follow a short vowel the "s" is double similarily to how you do it with "t"s or "n"s for example. If the word with the "ss" is somehow changed let's say conjugated and by that the vowel sound becomes long, then the "ss" changes to an "ß" to mark that. For some words like "Straße" there is also the sound of the "ß" considered because a normal "s" would be spoken soft here, which does not represent the sound of the word. But the whole thing is not completely consistent. For example the ending "-nis" sounds more like a "-niss". But anyway, the difference is mostly the length of the vowel, and if you see it written differently than the spelling that you know it is probably the old spelling which wrote "daß" and "Faß" and not "dass" and "Fass".

I hope I could be of help.

Danke für die gute Erklärung :)

When you're reading old books try to get an edition that says "Der Text wurde der neuen deutschen Rechtschreibung angepasst" or something similar on the half-title page. Otherwise you might learn things are not correct anymore

"...Regel 160:

  1. Fehlt das ß auf der Tastatur eines Computers oder einer Schreibmaschine, schreibt man dafür ss. In der Schweiz kann das ß generell durch ss ersetzt werden § 25 E2. ...."

Ach wäre ich doch bloß in der Schweiz! Aber ich werde auf jeden Fall meine Tastatureinstellung von Qwertz auf qwerty ändern :-)

Vielen Dank! Die beiden Weblinks sind sehr hilfreich :)

As it is with one's native language, you just know language and not the rules of the language!

But one thing I'm sure about: All daß follow the old German orthography, in the modern orthography they are all replaced by dass. This reform was made almost 20 years ago, but of course there are still a lot of old texts and elderly persons who did not adopt the new rules.

1) If the S sounds sharp and/or long and not just long/short, you use it.
2) If there are three 's' after each other, you could use it (although only once in that part) to make it more readable.
3) You generally don't use it at the start of a word.
4) If the word is really short, i.e. 'dass', use of 'ss' is preferred over 'ß'.
5) And if the word has no letters after the Ringel-S (Ringel-S = the name for ß or ss), then you don't use ß.
6) In Austria, ß is less irregularly and more frequently used than in Germany, and they prefer to follow the older spelling of before 1996, in where rule 1, 2, and 3 did not really apply.

These aren't exactly formal, but in like 90% of the cases, you're good to go with these rules.

Examples of every rule:

  • blass - bloß
  • Schloßstraße (Schlossstrasse), or Schloßstrasse
  • well, yeah... there's no word starting with ss, IIRC.
  • dass - daß
  • Anschluss - Straße
  • Strasse - Straße

Sorry, but I don't think that most of your rules are correct.

  • I don't think 2) is currently a valid rule. If you don't want three "s" in a row, you can use a "-": Schloss-Straße.
  • 4) isn't, either (did you make it up?), "daß" is outdated spelling. The use of "ß" vs. "ss" does not depend on the word length.
  • Schlossstrasse and Strasse are only correct in Switzerland (they don't use ß). Schloßstrasse is completely nonsense.

Ahh, thanks for the corrections. That clears up even better how badly I've focused on German at school.

I have a book from the 90's about Upper Bavaria that is half in german, half in english, and it uses ß so much. I actually love the look of it, but i understand the new spelling rules decreased it's usage.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.