Every dictionary I have seen says stress an in angeblich. Yet often, I hear angeblich. Does it matter? Are there rules? Or is it dialect? Similarly, ausführlich or ausführlich? One dictionary says the latter is used in Austria, yet I usually hear ausführlich anyway, which sounds more natural to me. Tatsächlich or tatsächlich? Dictionaries say both are allowed, but hauptsächlich and not hauptsächlich? Is this right?

  • 2
    Maybe it's too much to ask but could you take a picture of such an entry? Because I find it really hard to believe... for angeblich it's just sooo not true and I'm not sure I would even understand it with a stress on "an". At least it would take me some time to process. – Emanuel May 20 '15 at 22:35
  • 1
    @Emanuel Ich hab das auch schon oft gehört, insbesondere, wenn jemand betonent will, dass es vielleicht nicht stimmt ("aaaangeblich gibt es da morgen Freibier") – Robert May 21 '15 at 0:12
  • 2
    @Robert.. ah, jetzt macht's klick bei mir. Dieses gedehnte "angeblich" kenne ich auch, allerdings gibt es da trotzdem noch einen Akzent auf der zweiten Silbe. – Emanuel May 21 '15 at 8:47
  • 1
    @KilianFoth I think you're right that there is a trend towards shifting the stress to the first syllable, but how do you conclude that this is an influence from English? First of all, English adjectives are not always stressed on the first syllable (massive is, intellectual isn't), and second, the average German speaker doesn't even know where to put the stress in polysyllabic English words. – Uwe May 21 '15 at 14:22
  • 3
    @KilianFoth I'd like to see a proof for what you claim to be "obvious" - both for the hypothesis that the said groups switched earlier to stressing the first syllable in "angeblich", "ausführlich" etc. than the rest of the population and that their influence is strong enough to make the rest of the population change their pronunciation (it would seem more likely to me that they have an influence on wording). – Matthias May 22 '15 at 9:00

I tried to find dictionaries with pronunciation hints on Google Books, so that we can have references here to discuss about.

Here are my findings. They all claim angeblich to be pronounced on the first syllable (which might surprise some commentors of your question):

PONS Großwörterbuch Englisch: Englisch-Deutsch / Deutsch-Englisch, page 1327

Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch

The Oxford-Duden German Dictionary: German-English, English-German, page 84 (zoom in heavily to see the small dot beneath "an")

Langenscheidt's standard German dictionary: German-English, English-German

However, I can confirm to have heard angeblich as well, and though I am not sure, I think I've already used both variants myself; probably depending on what would fit better into the rhythm and melody of the sentence.

If you check that same sources for the other references, you will see that

  • three of them explicitly list both variants for ausführlich (Langenscheidt doesn't seem to have the entry in its searchable part)
  • the Aussprachewörterbuch gives both variants for tatsächlich, while Oxford Duden only the one stressed on the first syllable (the other two don't have it)
  • none of them seems to have hauptsächlich

My personal experience is that both variants can be heard and are "correct" for ausführlich and tatsächlich. In contrast, I feel a strong preference for hauptsächlich, but I surely wouldn't frown on hauptsächlich.

To sum it up: there are no strict rules, it is largely a matter of preference (I can't say anything about regional influences here), and distribution of preferences for the variants might not be the same for the 4 words that you asked for.

Edit: I found one more dictionary: Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch seems to favour (if I read it correctly) angeblich and hauptsächlich and allows both variants for tatsächlich. No entry on ausführlich. So it's one more hint that there are no clear commonly accepted rules for one variant.


Go to http://www.aussprache.at and enter at »Orthographische Suche« the word whose pronunciation you want to know.

When you enter »angeblich« you will find that the six speakers (female and male voice from Austria, Germany and Switzerland) always stress the fist syllable and sometimes also the second (male voice from Austria).

In the case of »ausführlich« you can her that four speakers stress the first syllable (speakers from Austria and Switzerland) while the others stress the second (German Speakes).

So I think that in all your examples all versions that you found are correct.

  • Or forvo.com – and it appears to me, that "an" in "angeblich" is stressed in Southern Region. – Em1 May 21 '15 at 12:21

But: there are cases in German where stress changes the meaning:

umfahren : to steer around (a car around an obstacle, e.g. a traffic jam)

"Wir empfehlen, den Stau weiträumig zu umfahren."

umfahren : to run over (an obstacle with a car, e.g. a sign post)

Pass auf, du wirst das Schild noch umfahren!

Edit: the fact of the matter is that in German, stress means, well, stress. One stresses the part of the word or the sentence which is most important in the current context. Depending on the word, this might the same part most of the time, but still it might be different in another sentence.

For angeblich, the base stress pattern would be angeblich, because it is derived from the noun Angabe, where An- is the most important part which distinguishes its meaning from the base form "Gabe" (gift).

However, angeblich would often be used in a sentence like

Angeblich hat er das Geld irgendwo gefunden.

where the adverb expresses a doubt in the fact, and is stressed because it is most important in the sentence. So sentence stress, which goes on the root of the word, interferes with word stress, and you hear angeblich, and the stronger the speaker feels the doubt, the more prominently they would pronounce the stress.

For your other examples, one could construct similar contexts:

Tatsächlich hat er das Geld aber gestohlen. Ich habe den tatsächlichen Vorgang ausführlich dargestellt. Ausführlicher wird man es aber in der Zeitung nachlesen können.

hauptsächlich is special in that "haupt-" means "main", and so carries its importance in its meaning already. Therefore, it would be more difficult to construct a context where haupt- is not stressed. I can't think of a good example with hauptsächlich, but one could say

Nicht alle Hauptwörter sind auch Hauptsachen.


It also depends on whether you want to emphasize something. In standard pronunciation you maybe stress the first syllable and when you emphasize a word you stress another syllable.

I think there are no rules for stressing, it’s feeling for the language.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.