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Pronouncing the Letters V-W and B-D

The German letters V and W can cause some confusion for native English speakers, since the German W is pronounced like the English V, and the German V is pronounced like the English F! One easy way to keep them straight is the fact that not only are they next to each other in the alphabet, but they also form the abbreviation of the auto manufacturer Volkswagen, or VW — pronounced "fau vay" in German. Practice saying VW to yourself, emphasizing the F sound in "fau" and the V sound in "vay."

 

Ein Ford oder ein VW oder was?
A Ford or a VW or what?
Caption 42, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Weil oder obwohl

 

The word "Volkswagen" itself has both letters V and W in it, so practice pronouncing it properly to keep the pronunciation of the letters straight: folks vah gen. 

 

It's worth noting that in many loanwords like Vase, vage, Universität, Verb and the like, the pronunciation of the German V is the same as the English V!

 

The German letters B and D at the beginning of a word are pronounced like the hard versions of the letters in English, as in "blue," and "dark." But when these letters are at the end of a German word, they soften up considerably. 

 

Das Grab, der Stein, die Blumen.
The grave, the stone, the flowers.
Caption 18, Großstadtrevier: Von Monstern und Mördern

 

The letter B in Grab should not sound like a hard English B, but rather like a soft P: "grap."

 

Keiner kam auf die Idee, das mit der Hand zu machen.
The idea of doing it by hand didn't occur to anyone.
Caption 22, Erfinder: Nie erfundene Erfindungen

 

The letter D in Hand should not sound like the hard English D, but like a soft T: "hant."

 

Further Learning
Make a list of German words ending in the letters B and D, and find examples of them being pronounced by native speakers in a real world context on Yabla German.

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