Swedish vowels – Å, Ä, Ö

Free mini course: Swedish letters Å Ä Ö


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When you sign up for this free mini pronunciation masterclass, you get free videos that specifically teaches you how to pronounce the Swedish vowels Å, Ä and Ö. 

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A few words about Å Ä and Ö

Here is the first one of the three extra vowels in Swedish (they come in the end of the alphabet by the way, in this order: å, ä, ö). The challenge is to really distinguish them as separate vowels, and not just muddled versions of A and O. The Å can be thought of as the ‘au’ sound in (British accent) ‘Paul’. Indeed, some Swedish Pauls actually spell their names Pål. The sound is long, as in a long ‘Pååål’, or ‘poor’.

This letter can be thought of as the English ‘ai’ in ‘pair’, or ‘hair’. The only thing to remember is that the mouth is actually quite wide, a bit more of a smile than when saying ‘pair’.

Finally, the Ö is similar to the English sound ‘i’ in the word ‘bird’. Or ‘u’ in the word ‘fur’. Or ‘ea’ in the word ‘heard’. The lips are fairly rounded, but also slightly trumpet-shaped.

And finally, the graduation test is to fully master the following Swedish tongue twister: Flyg fula fluga flyg, och den fula flugan flög (Fly, ugly fly, fly, and the ugly fly flew.).

Speak Like a Swede course

Skulle du vilja låta mer svensk? Har du aldrig lyckats uttala sjuksköterska, eller vad skillnaden är mellan Å, Ä och Ö? Eller när G eller K uttalas hårt eller mjukt? Känner du sig osäker på hur man betonar ord när man uttalar dem?

Would you like to sound more Swedish? Never got the hang of how to say sjuksköterska, or what the difference is between Å, Ä and Ö? Or when G or K is pronounced hard or soft? Feel unsure of where to stress a word when you pronounce it?

If this is you, then this course is definitely for you!

47 thoughts on “Swedish vowels – Å, Ä, Ö”

  1. I'm not a student of Swedish (just curious how to pronounce these vowels), but ö is like the vowel in "bird" or "fur" in varieties of English in and around London, right? in most North American varieties of English (along with Irish English and northern varieties of British English), that vowel is r-colored (pronounced with the tongue curled up toward, but not touching, the palate).

    Otherwise, very nice explanations. Thanks!

    • Yes you are possibly right. It is always hard to find a way to explain a vowel that doesn't exist in another language. Maybe a bit like the Northern American 'Duh!', or 'eeeerrrr...' sounds? /anneli

    • You're talking about the rhotic "r" that is absent from most accents in England, right? Central Lancashire, the South West of England, and parts of East Anglia all pronounce the rhotic "r" as Americans do, but the rest of England doesn't seem to.

      To me, the letter Ö sounds the same as the "oeu" in the French word "oeuf".

    • No, ö is really unlike any vowel in the english language that I can think of. I am born and raised in America, but took Swedish starting when I was about 8 and lived in Sweden, and went to a Swedish school for 6 months in 6th grade. ö is like forming an o with your lips but "eeee" with your tongue and then having the sound you make be halfway in between....its genuinely it's own vowel. You have to hear it to know, and even if you hear it, it's hard to replicate it unless you've been trained to speak it. My husband, mother, and best friends can't, for the life of them, replicate it.

  2. My family used to spell their name "Petersön" how would that be pronounced? Or, is there a way to spell it that would actually use some type of character and have a legitimate pronunciation? Also, is the Name Richard at all spelled differently or can it be spelled differently to fit a Swedes language?
    Thank you

    • Hej! Interesting questions. Are you sure of the dots over the o in your sir name? A more common way of spelling that name would be Petersson or Pettersson (i.e. meaning the son of Peter/Petter). When we pronounce it, we often blend the r and the s, so the pronunciation might be something like "Pe-te-shon" - if that makes sense. Richard can also be spelled Rickard, and would always be pronounced with a hard k in Sweden. Hope this helps! /anneli

    • Hi!

      I accidentally stumbled onto this blog post (looking for some aid in explaining these three letters to English speakers), and found your comment fun to read - if you note my name, you'll see why. 🙂

      When I, some years ago, visited USA, I found that nobody I met was able to come close to pronouncing my name the way I say it. After a few days, I started to introduce myself as "Richard" (English pronunciation) instead to make it easier for the people I met.

  3. I've recently began taking a course in Swedish. Although I do find some of the grammar confusing (ie. when to use "du", "ni", or "ni är"), easily one of the most frustrating things for me was the pronunciation. It seemed like sometimes, the 'å' sound would make an 'o' sound, sometimes an 'a' sound, an 'oa' sound, and sometimes an 'au' sound (as in "Paul"). Sometimes a regular 's' sound would be said as 'sh', as in "varsågod". An extra j/y sound would be made in words like 'flicka' (making it sound like 'flickja'). The 'ö' sound made an 'e' sound in words like 'mjölk'. The 'g' was silent in 'Jag'. "De" was pronounced as "Dom". Overall, I have just been very confused with the pronunciation. If anyone can clarify or explain these odd pronunciations, it would be greatly appreciated.

    Tack på förhand!

    SIDENOTE: Is there a consistent way to differentiate as to when you should use "en" or "ett"?

    å, ä, ö

    • Hej! This is difficult to explain in a brief comment, but overall I would say that the vowel sounds to some extent differs between dialects. 'rs' together is often pronounced as 'sh' - as in varsågod (and also in names like Anders, Persson etc). I am not sure I agree with the extra j/y in words like flicka... We do drop some consonants in colloquial speech - jag becomes 'ja', det becomes 'de' and so on. Most Swedes these days do pronounce de as dom (although this was not the case if you go back 40-60 years) - I have no idea why we have started doing this, but we do. Finally, in terms of the en and ett, there are no consistent ways to differentiate, I am afraid, although once you have learnt the plural forms, you can actually tell from them whether a word is en or ett in singular. I would generally advice you to get some practice with a native speaker, who can help you to correct and guide your pronunciation (but perhaps make sure it's not someone with an unusual/strong dialect!). It is hard in the beginning, but it does eventually develop. Best of luck! 🙂 /anneli

      • I'm glad to hear other languages have unknown strangeness like English. In my native Western US dialect (Wisconsin too) we commonly say 'you betcha' in place of 'your welcome'. A Filipino friend of mine asked me the why we say that or what does it mean. I had never thought of it before and I still have no idea why we say that. It doesn't even make sense.

        • "You betcha" is probably a shortened version of "You (can safely) bet (that) you're (welcome)" --with the words in parentheses being the ones now omitted, & the remaining ones slurred together.

    • I can help with DU and NI.
      DU is you singular
      Ni is YOU PLURAL.

      Du är kvinna
      Ni är kvinnor

      i am only just starting but i am friends with native speakers and that really helps!

  4. I recently ran across the Swedish name "Måårdh." I understand how to pronounce the single "å" but what happens when you double it? What English sound would that rhyme with?

  5. Hi, I am a native speaker of Swedish, and I know the language. The translation for the Swedish tongue twister is actually:

    Fly, ugly fly, fly, and the ugly fly flew.

    It's rather hard to turn into English, so I understand your mistake was easy to make. However, please be more precise next time.

  6. HiHAnneli Hi Anneli
    I'm looking for nice short word in the Swedish language with letter O & two dots above ,meaning : good , central, excellent, harmony & so one , any Idea ?
    I would love to hear your imput

  7. Hej!
    Stort tack for denna sida. Jag arbetar utomlands och min a utlandska kollegor har uppskattat den! Dessutom saknar min jobbdator svenska och nar jag har behovt skriva kortare texter med svenska vokaler har jag anvant copy-paste fran er sida (inte speciellt effektiv metod, men mycket uppskattad I brist pa annat!).

  8. Tydligen är det förenklat. "Ä" har två sätt att uttalas.
    Som "a" i "bag" på engelska: väl, är, även, äta, äga, skäl, själ ...
    Som "ai" i "pair" på engelska: lägga, skägg, föräldrar, rätt ...

  9. While your explanation of å,ö,ä are helpful, I don’t think you’ve covered the entire pronunciation problem. ”Ä” really has two - at least - pronunciations according to it’s environment. For instance, “jag är” can often be prononceras without its ”r” sound all together. Also, it can have the sound of long ”a” in English as in ”bay”, and there is a second pronunciation: ”eh” as in the English ”bet”. I’ve found no logical explanation of this this change which must be governed by the environment of the sentence. Double consonants following vowels can change their sound altogether. Is this a part of this sound change? If so, please explain which environment controls each pronunciation change.

    • Hej Dennis! I am just about to release some videos talking about this exact thing, the long and short vowel sounds. So stay tuned for more soon! /Anneli

  10. Hi, I am trying to learn Swedish on my own time but i am having a difficult time learning all of these vowels because I only know the States English and learning a new language really does not come easily to me unlike other people would so if you could please help me out that would be really appreciate!! And I barely know any Swedish so yeah. If you want to get back in touch just let me know.

    • Hej Cody! You are welcome to book in a lesson with us, if you want one-2-one feedback on your pronunciation and help to develop your spoken Swedish. Have you checked out all the other vowel-videos on our Youtube channel?

    • Hej Rebecca! The ä-sound needs to be short, a bit like saying 'eh'. And the a-sound in the end is also short. And the two syllables are stressed equally. I hope this helps a little. 🙂 /Anneli

  11. Hello,
    I have started to learn Swedish about few months ago, I have to say on the paper, it is sooo easy!
    Like an easy English and German! Because I used to learn these tongues! However, I should add two things, one thing, speaking and articulation is so hard! AND the sound of language is not pleasant for a Persian speakers! Apart from this I guess it is like Esperanto! Even easier, I was improving in just 24 hours!
    I didn't reach to these åäö yet!
    Danish, Norwegian, Swedish are so similar in sound!
    Poo, from Iran!

  12. Hi, would the swedish word for birch (bjork) have the dots over the o? My last name is Bjorklund and I have been asked that question a few times and I'm not sure. I've heard both answers from my own family.

  13. I find those explanations to either be inaccurate or incomplete. I have never hear å pronounced like “au” in Paul. It sounds more like the “u” in pull or the “o” in pole. If Paul is pronounced differently in British English, then, that is a bad example to use.

    Although ä sounds like the “ai” in air by itself, when used with other letters, it sounds more like “ah” as in “ahha” or the “a” in bar or father, e.g., är sounds like ahr, not air. At least based on what I have heard.

    • Where are you from David? I live in the UK, so the example of Paul is perfect for British people. And there is of course a difference between the long and the short vowel sounds too. But have a look at the videos in the video course, and you can see exactly what it sounds like. I go through both long and short sounds there. - Anneli

  14. The real Swedish have two ts and two s in spelling Pettersson
    I can say this 100% certainty because my parents are Swedes n that is our last name Pettersson pronounced Pet Ters Son

    • Sometimes å becomes aa, ä becomes ae and ö becomes oe. But you could also just write å = a, ä = a and ö = o (I personally do this). I would write Sockenvagen. Do you live there? I was born just around the corner! 🙂 /Anneli

  15. My grandpa, who was Swedish, used to say you pronounced ö by puckering your mouth like you were going to say a very tight O, but then instead saying the letter A through it.

    • Hej! I would say that's not quite right, as the tongue position is different. The tongue position for A is different to that of Ö. Instead, you could say that a Ö is a 'darkened' version of Ä. The tongue position is the same, but you 'darken' the vowel by protruding your lips and pushing them forward to make an Ö. Hope this helps.

  16. Thanks for all your polite and cheerful answers! My last name is Ostrand (pronounced "Oh-strand), but my immigrant farfar used the Angstrom in front. Is that the correct name of the letter? What is the name for just the ring? Thx!

    • Hej! I've never heard a name for the ring above the A - as in Å. And I think the reason is because it is considered a letter in its own right, rather than an A with a diacritical mark above it. Hope this makes sense!


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