The German Consonant: H

When the German letter 'h' appears at the beginning of a word, it's pronounced exactly as the initial sound of the English words 'how', 'hard', 'here'. The letter is pronounced exactly the same when it appears in the middle of a word as well.
Click on the examples below to listen to German words containing the letter 'h'.

Examples with Pronunciation
Letter 'h' in initial position
Herz - heart Hals - neck heute - today
Hand - hand hundert - hundred helfen - to help
Letter 'h' in medial position
Altenheim - retirement home namhaft - well-known aufhängen - to hang up
Bahnhof - station Abhilfe - remedy Vorhof - front yard

However, when the German letter 'h' is placed in the middle of a word after a vowel, it's not pronounced. In such situation, it's used to indicate that the vowel is a long one (discussed in detail in a later lesson).
Click on the examples below to listen to German words containing a vowel followed with the letter 'h'.

Examples with Pronunciation
Letter 'h' after a vowel
fahren - to drive wohnen - to live mehr - more
Ruhe - calm nehmen - to take Jahr - year

Unlike English, there is no 'th' sound in the German language, either the 'h' is silent, and only the 't' is pronounced, which occurs in German words taken from other foreign languages, or each letter is pronounced separately, which most usually occurs in German compound words.

Examples with Pronunciation
Silent 'h' in 'th' combinations
Apotheke - drugstore Theater - theatre Mathe - math
Theorie - theory Methode - method Athlet - athlete
Separate 'h' & 't' in 'th' combinations
dorthin - there (to) enthalten - to contain Rathaus - town hall
Arzthelferin - doctor's assistant anderthalb - one & a half Nachthemd - nightshirt

All German words containing a 'ph' combination are taken from English; and thus are pronounced as a 'f' as well. Although most of these words have already been Germanified such that they are now spelled with a 'f' letter.

Examples with Pronunciation
Words containing 'ph' combination
Alphabet - alphabet Phantasie - fantasy Biographie - biography
Phrase - phrase Delphin - dolphin Mikrophon - microphone

Finally, it's worth noting that the letter 'h' never appears in the end of any German word, except if its a word taken from a foreign language and ending with a 'ph' or 'th' combination.