Is it the funny letter ß or ss?

Is it the funny letter ß or ss? German Language Coach

My students often ask during their German lessons if they can replace ß with double ss. The answer is NEIN unless you are learning Swiss German where the letter ß does not exist and is replaced with a double ss.

How do you know when it is ß and when double ss? Quite simple: when there is a short vowel before a sharp s-sound, there is a double S. If the vowel is long or there’s a diphthong, then there is an ß.

dass, der Fluss, lassen, fassen

das Maß, die Straße, heißen, weiß

Want to learn more about ß? Check out one of our previous blog articles on the letter ß.

3 thoughts on “Is it the funny letter ß or ss?

  • Hi, very informative answer, but for an English speaker learning to pronounce German, it can be hard to spell German unless you know in advance that it has a short rather than long vowel. Why not just make ß for all instances that need it – upper and lower case? Would be so much easier to learn and to pronounce! Surely, this would not be difficult for German-speakers?

    • ‘ß’ is a sharp s like ‘c’ in century, whereby ‘s’ is pronounced like ‘z’ in the English word zone.
      The answer to your question as to why German still has the letter ‘ß’ is better left to the traditionalists.
      In Swiss German, the letter ‘ß’ doesn’t exist.

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