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English-German Cognates
English-German Consonant Sound Shifts

Consonant Sound Shift Chart

The German linguist August Schleicher (1821-1868) developed the Stammbaumtheorie (family tree theory) that explains how words can be traced from one language to another, or within language families. Both the English word "father" and the German word "Vater" are related to Latin "pater." Earlier, in 1822 another German, Jakob Grimm (1785-1863, one of the "fairy tale" brothers), proposed Grimm's law to explain the various sound shifts between languages. He pointed out that words beginning with p in Latin and Greek (pater) start with f or v in Germanic languages (English father, German Vater). Understanding the f-v shift and other sound shifts between English and German can help you recognize cognates and expand your vocabulary. The chart below shows various consonant sound shifts between German and English with example words. Also see vowel sound shifts on the next page.


Sound/Spelling Consonant Shifts
Between German and English Cognates

Deutsch English Beispiele/Examples
b f Dieb - thief
halb - half
b v eben - even > E
Grab - grave
sieben - seven
ch k Buch - book > B
Elch - elk > E
schwach - weak
sprechen - speak
ch gh acht - eight > E
lachen - laugh
Licht - light
Fracht - freight > F
d th Bad - bath > B
drei - three
Erde - earth > E
Leder - leather
f p Bischof - bishop
helfen - help
scharf - sharp
ff p/pp Affe - ape
Pfeffer - pepper
Schiff - ship
g y Tag - day
Weg - way
k c Karte - card
Keller - celler
k ch Kapelle - chapel
Kinn - chin
mm mb Lamm - lamb
Nummer - number
pf p/pp Apfel - apple > A
Pfad - path
Pfanne - pan
sch s/sh falsch - false
Fleisch - flesh
Schnee - snow
ss t/tt besser - better
dass - that
essen - eat
Wasser - water
t/th d Taler/Thaler - dollar > D
vorwärts - forward > F
Wort - word
t/tt d Bett - bed > B
gut - good
reiten - ride
Tür - door
tt th Mutter - mother
Wetter - weather
v f Vater - father > F
vier - four
voll - full
Volk - folk
z/tz t Herz - heart
zehn - ten
zwei - two
Katze - cat
z c Eleganz - elegance > E
zirka - circa
Zirkus - circus

MORE > Vowel Sound Shifts

BACK > Cognates - A - English-German cognates

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German in English > You Already Know German

ALSO > False Cognates (false friends)

MORE > English-German Glossaries on many topics
MORE > Confusing Words and Expressions in German

WEB > German and English Spelling Patterns (R. Shea)


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