Last week I told you when to write das or dass, and when you might still see daß: Das, dass or daß? That’s the question!

Today’s post is a follow-up about when German words need the ‘ss’ or ‘ß’.

Although ‘daß’ is now spelled ‘dass’, doesn’t mean that the ‘ß’ is obsolete. But the rules have changed.

Before the spelling reform you would have seen (and still do in old books) lots of words with ß.

The following words have all been written with ‘ß’, but 16 of them should now be written with ‘ss’.
Read what the differences are, watch the video which includes a listening excerise, then come back to this list and find those 16 words. The answer will be at the bottom of the post.

•Abschluß •bloß •Counteß •draußen •Eßlöffel •Fleiß •Gruß •Du haßt•Er ißt •Jauchenfaß •Kuß •muß •Litfaßsäule •Naß •Obergeschoß •Querschuß•Paß •Regenguß •Süßigkeiten •Tränenfluß •unbewußt •Vergeßlichkeit •Weißwein zerreißen

If a German word has a long vowel sound or a diphthong (2 vowels together, like ‘ei’, ‘äu’ or ‘ie’), then the ‘ß’ remains. Examples: Fußball, dreißig, weiß.

If, however, the vowel sound is a short one, then old words, that had been spelled with ‘ß’ are now written with ‘ss’. Examples: Fass, Schloss, Stress.

Watch the video, hear how I pronounce the example words and complete the listening exercise.

This video is part of my online course ‘The German Alphabet – a complete guide to pronunciation’

Going back to that list of words, which ones do you need to change to a ‘ss’ instead of the ‘ß’?




Here is the answer. The 16 words that need ‘ss’ are:

Abschluss, Countess, Esslöffel, (du) hasst, (er) isst, Jauchenfass, Kuss, muss, nass, Obergeschoss, Querschuss, Pass, Regenguss, Tränenfluss, unbewusst, Vergesslichkeit.

Did you get them all?

“Hang on!” I can hear you shout, “I found 17 words! You forgot Litfaßsäule! Surely that should be with ‘ss’, as it’s a short vowel sound.” Ah, yes, that was a trick question of mine, sorry ☺

According to German spelling rules, the word ‘Fass’ should have an ‘ss’ and not ‘ß’, because the ‘a’ is a short vowel. In this case, however, it has nothing to do with a barrel, it’s somebody’s name. And names don’t follow spelling rules, hence Litfaßsäule.

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