SS or ß in German

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

The rule ss or ß in German changed a lot during the 1996-2006 reform. ß used to be written much more often. And now in poorly checked digital dictionaries and other places you can sometimes find old spellings or both spellings. The Germans themselves often confuse which letter to write.

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ss or ß in German

In short, the rule will look like this.
a is any vowel,
c is any consonant.

In the middle of the words

1. If s sounds as [z] between two vowels, then one s is written (Nase, Hase).

2. If [s] sounds between two vowels, then ss or ß is written, depending on whether the vowel is long or short in the stressed syllable:
long – ß (Straße), short – ss (Tasse).

At the same time, the list of words with ß is finite and small. Almost all of them are given below, with the exception of rare words. You can memorize it if you don’t hear the length of the vowel.
It also helps to say the word by syllables. Tas-se sounds “correct”, Stras-se sounds strange, so there is no doubling.

If you live in Germany, then now you will happily object to me: I saw the word Strasse on the streets and in addresses! That is right. This is an exception for the normal reading of addresses, especially on street signs, so that it is normally perceived by traffic participants and there are no problems with parcels.

3. If after or before the sound [s] there is a consonant, then one s is written (Brust, Bremse).

But if this happens during word formation, then the spelling that was in the original word is usually preserved (bisschen = Biss + chen).

4. In foreign words, ss can also be in unstressed syllables (Fassade). We think like this: Fassade is a foreign word, ß is not written in them. If there was one s, then it would sound [fazade] instead [fasade], so we write ss.

5. The prefix miss– (misslingen) is written with ss.

At the end of the words

To check what to write at the end of a word, you need to lengthen the word:
put in plural (Haus – Häuser)
change form of adjective (nass – nasse)

6. If in the changed word [s] sounds, then ss or ß is written, depending on whether the vowel in the stressed syllable is long or short. Long – ß (Maß), short – ss (nass).

Double s is heard when the word is stretched (Nuss – Nüs-se)

7. But: at the end of a word in foreign words there can be one s after short vowels (Bus, Ananas). When these words are lengthened, ss appears (Busse, Ananasse).

8. At the end of the word in native words there can be one s after long vowels. When lengthened, it turns into [z] (Maus – Mäuse, Beweis – beweisen).

Or these are monosyllabic words with a service function (bis).

9. In the suffix –nis, one s is written, but when the word is lengthened, it doubles.

For memorizing this rule well, you need to know the basic rule of double consonants. In fact, everything is subject to this basic rule.

If the stressed vowel is long, then one consonant is written;
if the stressed vowel is short, then two consonants are written.
In the second case, the consonants can be different, and then doubling does not occur, or the same, and then doubling occurs.

The difficulty arises from the sound [s] when reading: we have a long vowel, there should be one s, but it will be read as [z]. That is why they introduce “scharfes Es”, reflecting the sound [s] after a long vowel.

When my child writes one s instead of two, I always ask him to read it exactly as he wrote, and not as he wants: Nüse is still not [nysse], but [nyze].

So the shortened algorithm is

1. The list of words with ß is short, you can just learn it. A syllable with ß has a stressed long vowel.

2. One s is written:
if it sounds like [z] in its original form (Nase) or when changing the word (Maus – Mäuse)
or if there is a confluence of consonants (pusten)
or in the foreign word

3. If the word with a uncertain letter cannot be changed to sound [z] and the word does not belong to the list of words with ß, then two ss are written in it.
Usually this doubling is heard when the word is stretched. Naturally, after there should not be another consonant that cancels doubling.

List of the words with ß

ss or ß in german

SS or ß lists

ß words

süß, groß, weiß, heiß, mäßig, außer, außen, draußen, dreißig, bloß, fleißig, gemäß

aß (from essen, Präteritum), fraß (fressen), maß (messen), ließ (lassen), saß (sitzen), vergaß (vergessen), weiß/weißt (from wissen, only two forms),

beißen (but biss, gebissen), gießen (but goss, gegossen), schließen (but schloss, geschlossen), genießen (genoss, genossen), stoßen, schießen (schoss, geschossen), fließen (floss, geflossen), schmeißen (schmiss, geschmissen), reißen (riss, gerissen),

heißen, büßen, äußern, flößen, entblößen, einflößen, geißeln, grüßen, kreißen, schweißen, spießen

die Straße, die Buße, die Blöße, die Soße, die Scheiße, die Äußerung

das Gefaß, das Floß, das Gemäß, das Gesäß, das Maß, (das) Preußen

der Fuß, der Spaß, der Gruß, der Spieß, der Grieß, der Fußball, der Reißverschluss, der Fleiß, der Kloß, der Kreißsaal, der Maßstab, der Schoß, der Schweiß, der Ruß, der Strauß


bass, nass, passiv (unstressed), blass, hässlich, grässlich, bisschen, bewusst, krass, bissig, interessant, besser, gewiss, besessen

essen, küssen, wissen, fressen, vergessen, passen, messen, lassen, hassen, verbessern, müssen, fassen, befassen, pressen, beeinflussen, vermissen, Gassi gehen, passieren (unstressed)

past tense forms: goss / gegossen, biss / gebissen, schloss / geschlossen, genoss / genossen, schoss / geschossen, floss / geflossen, schmiss / geschmissen, riss / gerissen

die Klasse, die Kasse, die Gasse, die Messe, die Tasse, die Nuss, die Schüssel, die Adresse, die Narzisse, die Prinzessin, die Fassade (unstressed), die Kassette (unstressed), die Delikatesse, die Kompresse, die Interesse, die Flüssigkeit, die Massage (unstressed), die Rassel, die Fitness (unstressed)

der Kuss, der Pass, der Essig, der Fluss, der Imbiss, der Kessel, der Schlussel, der Sessel, der Stress, der Schluss, der Schuss, der Anlass, der Zuckerguss, der Professor (unstressed), der Kompass (unstressed), der Genuss, der Boss, der Kongress, der Kasseler, der Missbrauch, der Rüssel, der Russe, der Express

das Ross, das Wasser, das Schloss, das Messer, das Kissen, (das) Russland, das Karussell (unstressed), das Gebiss, das Erdgeschoss, das Passwort, das Dessert (unstressed)


are extended in [z] or auxiliary words:

das Glas, das Gleis, das Moos, das Haus, das Eis, das Gras, das Gas

der Kies, der Beweis, der Reis, der Preis, der Kreis

die Maus

tschüs, bis, das, des, aus


die Ananas, die Iris

der Bus, der Blues, der Globus, der Atlas, der Türkis, der Kosmos, der Fokus, der Krokus, der Bus

das Tennis, das Chaos

[z] (selectively)

böse, gesund, lesen, leise, reisen, riesig, losen

Gemüse, Gesicht, Wiese, Hase, Dose, Ameise, Nase, Rasen, Vase, Besen, Gesetz, Person, Lösung, Musik…

[s] (selectively)

Ast, Test, Nest, Ost, Rätsel, August, Fenster, Hals, Herbst, Ostern, Schwester, Rast, Wachs, Fels, Bremse, Kasten, Gast, Trost, Last, Brust, Wüste…

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