U Umlaut Simplified Like Never Before (Ü Pronunciation Tips)

September 19, 2022

Feli from Germany smiling, next to U umlaut character.

The U umlaut is one of the three German vowels that does not exist in English. Ü makes a distinct sound - kind of like the sound you'd make upon smelling something unpleasant. With practice, you can learn to make this sound.

Like all German vowels, the U umlaut has a long pronunciation and a short pronunciation. The Ü pronunciations sound like this:

Ü Sound German English


to practice


Click Purple Words to Play

1. What is the U umlaut?

Ü is one of the three German vowels that does not exist in English.

We have Ä and Ö, as well as the Ü we are discussing here. The two dots over the letter change how the vowel is pronounced.

2. Why is the U umlaut important?

The Ü pronunciation contributes to the unique sound and feel of the German language, as Ü makes a sound that does not exist in English. When you correctly pronounce the U umlaut, you are one step closer to sounding like a native German speaker.

Christmas market in Germany.

The U umlaut occurs in many important words, including two modal verbs (dürfen/may, as well as müssen/must). You might want to tell someone – “We must learn German” - “Wir müssen Deutsch lernen.” You’ll need the U umlaut for that!

The U umlaut is actually the most prevalent of the three umlaut sounds, so you will encounter this letter a lot.

3. How is the U umlaut pronounced?

The Ü letter makes a sound that does not exist in English. You can learn to produce this sound with practice.

Here are some tips to help you produce the Ü sound:

  1. Try to replicate the sound you’d make upon smelling something unpleasant
  2. Feli from Germany in U Umlaut pronunciation lesson in Kleo app, pretending she has smelled something unpleasant.
  3. Try saying OOO, but then say EEE in your mouth, without moving your lips

See if you can hear the Ü sound in these examples:

Example In Context
German English German English


to practice

Wir üben Deutsch

We practice German

der Frühling

the spring

Der Frühling ist da

Spring is here

die Stühle

the chairs

Wo sind die Stühle?

Where are the chairs?

4. How can I practice making the Ü sound?

With practice, you can develop muscle memory for the U umlaut sound. Here is a good exercise to get you going:

  1. First, articulate a long English E sound, like in the German word Tier, or animal
  2. Gradually purse your lips like you want to kiss someone
  3. You will end up with “Tür,” the German word for “door.” And there you have the U umlaut

Try the exercise with these word pairs:

Long English E U Umlaut
German English German English









5. What are the two pronunciations of Ü (long and short)?

Like all German vowels, the U umlaut has both a long pronunciation and a short pronunciation.

For the Ü, we make a similar sound for both pronunciations. We just hold the sound for different durations. And for the short Ü sound, there is slightly less lip rounding.

Listen to the two pronunciations of the U umlaut:

Long Ü Short Ü
German English German English

die Lüge

the lie

die Lücke

the gap





die Mühle

the mill



6. How do I know which pronunciation to use for Ü?

German countryside in spring. The German word for spring contains a long U umlaut before the letter H.

There are some guidelines for when to use the short vs. the long pronunciation for German vowels, including umlauts.

For instance, before the letter H, use a long umlaut. Listen for the long Ü sound before the H in these words:

German English

die Bühne

the stage

der Frühling

the spring

On the other hand, before a double consonant, use a short umlaut. Listen for the short Ü sound before the double consonant in these words:

German English





With practice, you will develop a feel for what sounds right.

7. How is the vowel U pronounced (not umlaut)?

So that’s the distinct pronunciation made when the letter U has two dots over it. Now you may be wondering how to pronounce the base vowel U, with no dots on top.

Like all German vowels, the vowel U has both a long pronunciation and a short pronunciation:

  • Long U: The long German U is like the U in the English word “flute.”
  • Short U: The short German U is kind of like the U in the English word “put.”

Listen for the two different pronunciations of the base vowel U in these examples:

U Sound German English

die Uhr

the clock

der Fluss

the river

8. How can I improve my pronunciation of Ü?

You can learn to pronounce the distinctly German Ü sound with practice.

  1. Do your word pair exercises: Practice the word pairs we shared, transitioning from a long English E sound to the Ü sound.
  2. Listen actively: Listen for the U umlaut used in conversation around you. Try to repeat the word out loud (if the setting permits) or silently to yourself.
  3. Keep track of your words: Keep a list of the Ü words you encounter throughout your day. Reserve a set time to work with these words, listening to them and trying to refine the pronunciation.
  4. Improve with productive feedback: Try the interactive Pronunciation lessons in Kleo, featuring Feli from Germany and top German experts. In these interactive video lessons, you can learn powerful tips and receive real-time feedback on your pronunciation. With your Kleo friends, you can keep working at it until you get it just right.
  5. Practice the Ü sound in context: The best way to build muscle memory is by using new sounds in real-life situations. Some of Kleo’s most popular interactive video lessons feature the Ü sound. For example, talk about what must be done in the müssen lesson. This is a great way to speak German in context, sharpening your pronunciation as you go.

9. What are other German sounds that do not exist in English?

Since the Ü sound does not exist in English, working to master this sound is challenging and rewarding. There are more German sounds that do not have an equivalent in English.

For example, the O umlaut (Ö) makes the sound like you're disgusted. Also, for the German CH, you can hiss like a cat for the soft pronunciation and cough something up for the guttural pronunciation. Fun, right? You can practice all of these sounds in Kleo's interactive video lessons.