From experience and from this video, it seems that you do a glottal stop in the following cases:

  1. Before a word beginning with a vowel (e.g. ein, essen)
  2. Before first vowel in words with prefixes (separable and inseparable) where first letter after prefix is a vowel (e.g. bearbeiten, but not bewahren)

I have a few related questions about these:

  1. Are the above patterns correct?
  2. Are there any other patterns that result in a glottal stop?
  3. Are there any exceptions to any glottal stop pattern?

4 Answers 4


Taken literally, your second rule (glottal stop before first vowel …) would produce something like bʔearbeiten, but that’s probably not what you mean.

I’d prefer to describe it this way: A glottal stop is used whenever a word would otherwise start with a vowel, such as ʔarbeiten, ʔauf, ʔessen; and it is retained in such words even when the vowel is no longer at the beginning, due to prefixation or composition: beʔarbeiten, ʔaufʔessen, Sonnenʔaufgang. A word with several parts can have many glottal stops: Wiederʔaufʔerstehung, ʔErʔörterungsʔaufsatz, Vorʔabʔanʔerkenntnis.

A glottal stop is sometimes used within a (non-composed) word to separate two adjacent vowels, when enunciating or as a personal quirk: e.g. soziʔal. This is not standard pronunciation.

I hope this answers your first two questions. Regarding exceptions, your third question:

  • In some cases, e.g. herauf, the constituent parts are no longer perceived as separate, and are pronounced without a glottal stop.

  • There are regional differences as well. Many southern dialects (including, but not limited to, those in Switzerland) don’t have a glottal stop, and this may cause speakers of these dialects to leave it out (sometimes or in general) even when supposedly speaking standard German.

The glottal stop is never written, except in grammars etc. German speakers without some form of linguistic education are not aware of it; this makes it notoriously difficult to avoid when learning a foreign language.

  • sozi-al :D... great you thought of that!!
    – Emanuel
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 14:15
  • The i in sozial can thus be construed as a semi-vowel (the w in vowel, too) when it is in fact sozijal. Also, aktüll is a quirky pun of aktu'el. However, the usual pronunciation would be closer to aktuwel, with a bilabial approximant. (I don't like quoting IPA, sorry folks).
    – vectory
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 17:50

Great question!

There might be some very rare exceptions in the spoken language, in example if you want to pronounce a word very clearly, like:

"Ich werde die Tür aufmachen."
"Ich werde die Tür zumachen."

... then you speak auf / zu a bit louder and make a very small break behind the prefix, but in general, if a vowel follows the prefix, you make a glottal stop, else without stop.


The above observations still don't account for the glottal stop between e and a in Theater or between o and a in Oase. Both these a's are stressed, so the glottal stop appears even between two vowels within a morpheme if the second vowel is stressed.

  • 4
    For one, those are both Fremdwörter, so they may behave exceptionally; and then, the stops you propose there sound unnatural to me in Austrian standard, so their occurence might only be a regional thing. Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 12:27

Glottal stop is used before a vowel if the vowel is the first phone of a syllable.

  • 4
    Welcome to German.SE. Do you think it would be useful to elaborate your answer a bit more? Like with examples or counter examples or the limits of this rule e.g. where other effects of pronounciation have more weight than given rule? Commented May 26, 2020 at 6:25

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