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Pronunciation question - o, u and ü

I'm struggling to differentiate between the 'o' (long), 'u' and 'ü' sounds.

When I hear pronunciation guides for a long 'o' it sounds like 'aw', eg "boot" sounds like "bawt".

When I hear guides for 'u', it sounds like "oo", eg "kuh" sounds like "koo".

When I hear guides for 'ü' it sounds like 'ew', eg 'brüder' sounds like "brewder".

But when I listen to guides for actual words like "bruder" sometimes it sounds like "brooder" and at other times its sounds much like "brawder". The first makes the 'u' sound like a 'ü', and the second makes the 'u' sounds like a long 'o'. Which is correct here?

More importantly, am I even making the correct distinctions between the different sounds?

Thanks in advance.

May 25, 2018


  • 1005

Studies have shown that when people are not exposed to certain sounds at a very young age, they cannot distinguish between them at a later age. So the German ü can sound very much like an u to some people, which does not help in pronouncing it correctly.

The German ü is something like a combination of i and u. Your lips are rounded as for u, and your tongue is in the position as for i. Try saying an i as in Biene, hold the i sound and round your lips. The sound should change to a nice ü. :) You can practice the pronunciation by alternating between the words Biene and Bühne.


Personally, the long o sounds like the o in oatmeal if you stretched it. Can't quite figure the a-sound into it. The rest looks reasonable, on digital paper at least.

Bruder is singular: ein Bruder, a brother.

Brüder is plural: zwei Brüder, two brothers.

But there's no form of Bruder that has a long o in it. It may come down to dialect or regional tongues, but in High German, you have "Bruder" and "Brüder", and that's it. You can safely forget about the o in this case.



here is a lessons about the pronunciation of the letters in german.


This video might help you. She explains the German Umlaute as well.

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