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Is there a rule for when i becomes before e in German words?

In English we have "i before e except after c" which makes it quite easy to work out the spelling of words if you cannot remember them exactly. Whereas in German it seems to be somewhat random as far as i can tell and I am getting constantly mixed up on a lot of words such as wein, bier, leider etc... Are there any rules on spelling structure that will help me work out when its "...ie..." as appose to "...ei..." Thanks.

July 13, 2017



Well the sounds 'ei' and 'ie' make are very different. So when you know the pronunciation of a word, you know whether it's 'ei' or 'ie'.

For example: "Wein" means "wine" and the 'ei' is pronounced like the 'i' in wine.

"Wien" means "Vienna" and the 'ie' is pronounced like the 'ea' in bean, steam, dream etc.


If you know the sound of the word, you're off the hook. The diphtong "ei" sounds like the English letter "i", whereas "ie" sounds like the english "ee", that is a prolonged letter "e". So, if it sounds like "beer" the Germans spell it "Bier", if it sounds like "wine", the Germans spell it "Wein". Same goes for "Lieder (songs)" - (sounds a bit like "leader") versus "leider (unfortunately)" (sounds like a combination of the English "lie" and "dare")


The ie is basically a long i (german i). It just makes the vocal long, you can not hear the e. Its called a Dehnungs-e and comes mostly after i (in some Names its still after other vocals).

Ei is a diphtong and sounds very different from i/ie. Ei sounds basically as the english i. I/Ie sounds basically like an english e (like in we).


The closest I can put it to "i before e except after c" is the below:

ie = sound the e

ei = sound the i

That's how I remember it.


Best answer. Have a Lingot.


The way I learned is the second vowel is the way it sounds. 'ei' sounds like 'i'. 'ie' sounds like 'e'.


That's only true if you are thinking English. In German 'ei' is a diphthong. Whereas 'ie' is a regular but longer 'i' with a silent 'e'. It works similar to an 'h' after vowel that indicates stress.


no if the word has ie in it its pronuced differently to an ei word. hope it helps xx

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