I have been learning German for a little while now and my pronunciation is still horrid. I just recently noticed though that it may be worse than I have imagined. I may have been pronouncing der and possible all other er s at the end of words incorrectly.

For der, I pronounce it day + uh, but I have also heard it pronounced in a few other ways as well, including what sounds like dier or, in my non-IPA terms, dee from deer plus uh. Then when it comes to the er at the end of words, at times it sounds like an uh to me and at other times an ah. However, when it comes to the word er itself, it sounds like ay from day plus uh. Which pronunciation is standard for der, er (the word) and the er at the end of words?

I should probably quit using Forvo, because it leads to so much confusion and me using weird pronunciations due to the regional accents and mix of overly slow/normal pronunciation.

  • 1
    dict.cc has audio recordings of people saying the words der and er (the little speaker icon to the right). You can use the site to find others ending with "er".
    – Baz
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 15:10
  • My problem isn't so much finding pronunciations, it's finding the right ones. On dict.cc, I hear multiple distinct pronunciations. Also, as for "er" itself, I hear it pronounced a lot more like the British "air" in some forvo pronunciations, but I don't hear any resemblance to the British "air" on dict.cc
    – Aleenik
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 15:13
  • related: german.stackexchange.com/questions/9728/…
    – Emanuel
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 19:45
  • Der ['day-uh], er ['ay-uh] or ['eh-uh], -er [uh] or more clearly like "er" with less emphasis. (' denotes emphasized part)
    – user6191
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Since I don't know how to use your "uh" and "ah"-system and in this issue sounds are included that do not occur in English, I will use IPA symbols for my answer:

  • der is pronounced [deːɐ̯] according to Wiktionary. However, my personal (rather southern) pronunciation is [dɛɐ̯]. As far as I know, the [e]-sound is not widely used in English and native English speakers often confuse it with an [ɪ] or [i]. (Whenever I see an English word whose IPA transcription uses [e] I don't hear an [e]-sound but rather an [ɛ]-sound or something diphthongal.) The short [ɐ̯] is known as a-Schwa and should not be confused with a normal [ə]-Schwa. In English both Schwas are variants of each other and not phonemic; however, in German both sounds are distinct!

  • er has a similar pronunciation. Simply replace the [d] by a Knacklaut [ʔ]: [ʔeːɐ̯] or [ʔɛɐ̯]

  • The -er-ending is an a-Schwa [ɐ]. (In this possition known as Lehrer-Schwa.)

Please note that there are some rhotic speakers of German who will pronounce a proper r-sound in each or some of these words/endings. What I have described here is the non-rhotic pronunciation.

  • Thanks for the explanation! Btw, for ah and uh, I was talking about the actual words ah and uh themselves. So ä and ə respectively. Not that that really matters now, just figured I would make that clear.
    – Aleenik
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 15:46
  • @Chris Can you name the 'rhotic' dialects? Personally I believe/know they exist but I am seeking for a complete overview. Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 17:53
  • @AdamM.B. I don't have a complete overview of rhotic German dialects. In deed it seems to me that there are dialects in which some speakers pronounce each "r" and some speakers that don't. E.g. my dialect is the Palatinate dialect in a non-rhotic variant but my grandmother speaks a more or less rhotic variant (at least she pronounces more "r"s than I do). And I am quite sure that I have heard Bavarian speakers pronounce "r"s in positions where I wouldn't. E. g. in this video: "kaRteln" and "KataRRH". I wouldn't pronounce any "r" here.
    – Chris
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 19:57

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