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Some words (nouns, adjectives or verbs) end with "ch" like "der Vergleich" , "hässlich" etc.

And some have "sch" or ends with "sch" like "hübsch"; was ist der Unterschied?

It is actually confusing not with the pronunciation, but when to write "ch" and not "sch".

Is there a rule, trick that can maybe helps with predicting the write one, whether "ch" or "sch"?

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    Adding to the excellent answer of Tsundoku: think of 'ch' and 'sch' as a single letter as they describe each a single and very distinct sound. There are no(?) instances in German where 'ch' is not a single sound. And there only very few where 'sch' is not a single sound either (exceptions are diminuitives of words ending on 's', like Häschen, Fässchen,... where the written 'sch' is actually a spoken 's-ch') Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 17:25
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    I tried to improve the question towards standard punctuation; I'm somewhat unsure, whether I understood your intention behind Unterschied correctly, please check.
    – guidot
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 21:14
  • If you imagine someone asking "where to write 'a' and where 'o'?" you will realise that the question is actually precisely about pronunciation, because hearing the difference is sufficient to know where to write which one. Commented Jan 26, 2022 at 19:24

1 Answer 1

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The decision whether "ch" or "sch" should be written depends on the pronunciation in Standard German.

  • Unterschied is pronounced /ˈʊntɐʃiːt/, hübsch is pronounced /hʏpʃ/; notice the /ʃ/ sound, which corresponds with the sound of "sh" in the English verb "should".
  • Vergleich is pronounced /fɛɐˈɡlaiç/, hässlich is pronounced /ˈhɛslɪç/; notice the /ç/ sound for "ch".

/ç/ is the German "ich-Laut" or voiceless palatal fricative. It requires a bit of practice if your native language does not have this sound.

The sound /ç/ is easy to confuse with the so-called Ach-Laut, which is a voiceless uvular or velar fricative (/χ/ and /x/, respectively; even the IPA symbols are very similar). You can find the Ach-Laut in lachen (/ˈlaxn/) and Loch (/lɔx/), for example.

There are a few cases where you need to be careful. For example "bisschen" is pronounced /ˈbɪsçən/ because the "chen" is used here to refer to something small (see "chen" for diminutive forms) and is not part of the same syllable as the last 's' of "biss". However, "Groschen" is /ˈɡrɔʃn/.

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  • I removed the code formatting. Technically, these transcriptions look to be phonetic, not phonemic, so [] should be used instead of //. But that's probably not of importance.
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 16:57
  • "It requires a bit of practice if your native language does not have this sound." I'm pretty sure that includes English speakers. English speakers have to cope with enough German last names that they can usually do a close approximation of the Ach-Laut, The Ich-Laut not so much, though in my experience it's not as difficult to imitate as the German 'R' = Stimmhafter uvularer Frikativ.
    – RDBury
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 22:57

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