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Is there a difference in pronunciation between "ist" -be (3p. sing) and "isst" -eat (3p. sing)?

EDIT: I posted the second part as an independent question

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Der Junge isst ein Kind.... Is he a cannibal? –  user6265 May 13 '14 at 15:42
"Der Junge isst ein Kind", yes if you write it like this then he is a cannibal. –  Wernfried May 20 '14 at 14:51
What is diferent in words"Das Bäer isst eine Katze" (Bear eats Cat) and "Das Bäer ist eine Katze" (Bear is Cat ) How we non speaking Germans to understand that two diferents ? –  user8712 Jun 25 '14 at 10:29
@user8712: Well, apart from the fact that it is "der Bär", for animals the correct verb is "fressen", therefore "Der Bär frisst eine Katze" vs. "Der Bär ist eine Katze". And of course generally it should be clear from context what it meant (for example, there are very few contexts where a bear is a cat). –  celtschk Jun 25 '14 at 21:27
The same thing happens if you say: Du hast Eier / Du hasst Eier. It's only the context to decide, if you have eggs or if you hate eggs. German is sometimes funny. At the first time, in school, when I heard "Peter isst eine Banane" I laughed very loud! Of course I thought, that there is banana called Peter, and well, "Peter is a banana". –  Barth Zalewski Dec 16 '14 at 21:44

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted


According to wiktionary.org (and my experience) the pronunciation is the same for "ist" and "isst":

ist: [ɪst]
isst: [ɪst]

Some people will argue that you emphasize the "s" in "isst", but in fact the emphasis is on the "i" both times according to the Duden.


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One thing worth noting is that in "ist" the t tends to be dropped in informal spoken language ("Er is' 'ne Gurke."). That does not happen with "isst" ("Er isst 'ne Gurke."). –  elena Jun 5 '12 at 12:10
@elena: I was about to start an answer and saw your great comment. The difference you mention is true for all regional dialects, be it Hamburg or Zwiesel. –  zebonaut Jun 9 '12 at 12:05
From what you say one could think that you could also write i'st, if the s was emphasized, but this is not true, for sure not in IPA, where the apostrophe marks the stressed syllable –  Walter Tross May 13 '14 at 18:49
Note that there are even dialects out there (Swabian, Schwäbisch) which distinguish between er isch und er issd, making the difference even clearer. –  Jan Mar 31 at 16:11

They sound exactly the same, they just are spelled differently

Er isst einen Hamburger.

Er ist ein Hamburger.

They are 2 different verbs that have 2 different meanings, that when conjugated for Er/Sie/Es sound exactly the same

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I pronounce "Hamburger" (food) as "Hämbörger" to avoid problems. Don't want anybody to think, I am a cannibal. –  Barth Zalewski Dec 16 '14 at 21:46
They don't sound the same. –  Robert Mar 31 at 21:25
@Robert Care to expand on that? –  TheEnvironmentalist Apr 24 at 3:04
@TheEnvironmentalist See The_Fritz' answer. "ist" and "isst" are pronounced differently, even though a non-native speaker may not easily catch the difference, and not only when you want to emphasize. –  Robert Apr 24 at 21:12

In "isst", you put more emphasis on the i and the s is a little bit sharper than in "ist".

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You might try this in an ambiguous situation to make clear which of the two words you mean. But in general: No, I can't confirm what you say. –  Hendrik Vogt Jun 3 '12 at 13:12
There really isn't an ambiguous situation that could occur where you could mix the 2 up, Er isst pizza when you say this it could sound like He is pizza but from context you can tell the sentence means He eats pizza –  John Jun 3 '12 at 17:50
@John: True, it's hardly ever ambiguous. But sometimes it's even on purpose: Man ist was man isst. –  Hendrik Vogt Jun 3 '12 at 18:01
Nein, das stimmt nicht. "ist" und "isst" werden genau gleich ausgesprochen: "Hans ist ein Hamburger, der einen Hamburger isst." –  Hubert Schölnast Jun 4 '12 at 13:22
Ambiguous situation: "er ist schnell" vs. "er isst schnell" — but here, in the first case youd' emphasize as "er ist schnell" while in the second case you'd normally say "er isst schnell" unless you explicitly want to emphasize "schnell" (OT-Englischfrage: habe ich "betonen" korrekt mit "emphasize" übersetzt?) –  celtschk Jun 12 '12 at 18:13

Actually no, but lots of Germans pronounce "ist" without the "t" at the end.Generally there is absolutely no difference. You can guess the meaning from the context like

Er ist/isst ein Kind.

Here it is clear that it has to be "ist".

Er ist/isst eine Suppe.

Now it is "isst", because usually you can't be a soup :D

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