How to Pronounce Ich In German

September 12, 2022

Female German teacher with welcoming smile

Ich means “I” in German. To correctly pronounce ich, there are just two sounds:

  1. The vowel I is pronounced like the I in the English word “in.”
  2. For the CH, we use the softer pronunciation of the German CH, which is often compared to the sound of a hissing cat.

The word ich sounds like this:

German English

ich

I
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1. When do we use the word ich?

Ich, meaning “I,” is a subject pronoun. Ich is used in the subject position of our sentences, as in these examples:

German English

Ich bin hier

I am here

Ich habe einen Hund

I have a dog

2. How do we pronounce the vowel I in ich?

All German vowels have two pronunciations - a long pronunciation and a short pronunciation.

In the word ich, we use the short pronunciation of the vowel I. The short German I sounds like the I in the English word “in”.

3. How do we pronounce the CH in ich?

We pronounce the German CH differently depending on several factors, including the specific letters that the CH combination follows.

In the word ich, the CH follows the letter I. Therefore, we use the softer of the two CH pronunciations. In fact, this soft pronunciation is often referred to as the ich sound.

This soft CH sound does not exist in English. The sound is more like a soft K. Open up your airway to let more sound out.

You can learn to make the soft CH sound with practice
Woman pretending to hiss like a cat and whisper a giggle, showing practice tips for the soft pronunciation of German CH, which is present in the word ich.

Here are some tips to help you practice this sound. Experiment with each of these tips until you find the one that works best for you:

  • Make the sound of a hissing cat
  • Make a giggling sound, and then try whispering it
  • Think of the beginning sound in the English word “human” but exaggerate it

4. What are other German words that use the same sounds as ich?

Once you can pronounce the word ich, you are well-positioned to pronounce several other important words.

Here are some additional words that contain both the short I sound and the soft CH sound:

Example In Context
German English German English

ich

I

Ich bin hier

I am here

mich

me

Siehst du mich?

Do you see me?

dich

you

Ich liebe dich

I love you

sich

him/herself, themselves

Er duscht sich

He showers

5. What are some key phrases that use the word ich?

Think about how many times a day you use the word I? Not surprisingly, the word ich is one of the top twenty most frequently used words in German.

Now that you can pronounce this important word, here are some must-know phrases that use the word ich:

German English

Ich bin + Name

I am + Name

Ich bin aus + Place

I am from + Region/Country

Ich habe Hunger

I am hungry

Ich liebe dich

I love you

Note that the German word for I (ich) is only capitalized when it starts a sentence, which is unlike English. For example, to say “She is taller than I”, it would be “Sie ist größer als ich”. Only capitalize ich when it starts a sentence.

6. How do we use verbs with the subject ich?

Woman smiling warmly and holding magazines in a German market.

In German, we change the ending of verbs for different subjects. For the subject ich/I, we drop the EN ending from a regular verb and add the letter E.

For example, the verb lernen is a regular verb meaning to learn or to study. To say “I learn”, we drop the EN from lernen and add the letter E. I learn is “Ich lerne.”

Here are more regular verb conjugations for the subject ich:

German English

(lernen) Ich lerne

I learn

(kaufen) Ich kaufe

I buy

(arbeiten) Ich arbeite

I work

(machen) Ich mache

I make/do

(spielen) Ich spiele

I play

7. How can I improve my pronunciation of the word ich?

With practice, you can learn to correctly pronounce this important word.

  1. Listen for the soft CH sound and short I sound used in conversation around you. Try to repeat the words out loud or silently to yourself.
  2. Keep a list of the soft CH and short I words that you encounter throughout your day. Reserve a set time to work with these words, listening to them and trying to mirror the pronunciation.
  3. Get feedback on your pronunciation to improve: Try the interactive pronunciation video lessons in Kleo, featuring Feli from Germany and top German experts. You will receive real-time feedback on your pronunciation. You can keep working at it until you get it just right.
  4. Practice in context: The best way to build muscle memory is by using new sounds and words in real-life situations. Some of Kleo’s most popular interactive video lessons prominently feature the word ich. For example, you can practice introducing yourself at a German family gathering, using ich bin. This is a great way to practice speaking and thinking on your feet.