Porsh or Por-shaah? I’ve seen probably a dozen movies where a character said they drive a Porsch and at least a few in which the second syllable was prolonged Por-shaah. This dilemma even got featured in one of the most popular TV shows of all times Friends. When Ross said Porsch, Joey corrected him “Hey! It’s Por-shaah!!”
I’m sure you noticed those pronunciation versions, too. And so, while I don’t have any friends who drive Porsches and my good ol’ Ford still runs great, I thought that I needed to get to the bottom of this mystery and check for you if Joey was right.
From this post you’ll learn:
- How to correctly pronounce Porsche
- What’s the original German pronunciation of Porsche as recorded by Porsche
- What’s so strange about the R sound in Porsche
- Do we say Por-shuh or Por-sheh?
- Porsche pronunciation FAQ
- How to say Porsche in English
Ross: The judge wouldn’t let us get an annulment! Now we gotta get a divorce!! Did a Porsch throw up on you? (commenting on Joey’s Porsche merchandise)
Joey: Hey! It’s Por-shaah!!
If you are a speaker of English you can start from my quick explanation below on how to say Porsche. However, how to correctly pronounce Porsche is one of the most debated topics on the internet and I know you may be also looking for a longer answer. If so please read on and check out the other sections of this post as well. Porsche is a German proper name and that’s where things get .. a little tricky.
How to say Porsche correctly (in English):
- Porsche has two syllables, not one: por – shuh. Porsch is wrong!
- The only accent is on the first syllable: POR- shuh
- The second syllable is very short and completely unaccented: por-shuh not por-shaaah!
- It’s ok to end Porsche with shuh not sheh as English doesn’t have unaccented eh
- You can pronounce the R sound if your accent is rothic (e.g. General American) or go for the silent R if your accent if non-rothic (e.g. Received Pronunciation)
The uh sound, also called schwa, is similar to the unaccented ah. It is denoted by the symbol ə.
OK, now that you know all the rules go ahead and play the recording to hear how to correctly pronounce Porsche in English. In this case you’ll hear Porsche pronounced twice. First spoken naturally and second broken into syllables. Both recorded in the popular General American accent.
It’s hard to write about the sounds using just the letters of the alphabet. And so, for those of you how are familiar with the phonetic transcription (the kind you can find in your dictionary) I am also providing the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) versions of Porsche pronunciation.
General American pronunciation of Porsche (rhotic): /ˈpɔɹ.ʃə/
British English pronunciation of Porsche (non-rhotic): /ˈpɔː.ʃə/
The original German version of Porsche of course uses sounds specific to the German language and hence differs slightly. We’ll talk about that in next section.
Do you need to pronounce Porsche the same way the speakers of German do? Read on to find out!
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who recognized the magnitude of the problem. The folks at Porsche even created an instructional video to help people get the original German pronunciation of Porsche right. Go ahead and play it but be warned, it may be not what you expected.
All right, now that you watched the video you already know that neither Porsch nor Por-shaah is correct. But you may still be surprised. It’s probably because Porsche is a German name and that video is teaching you the original pronunciation.
Unless you’re from Germany, you may have a that strange feeling that something is “wrong” with the way the voice actor is pronouncing the R sound and ending the word. And no, he isn’t speaking with a British accent. Play it again! Can you hear that?
And you’re onto something! In the video, you hear Porsche pronounced with the “German R”. In fact, there are a few ways to pronounce R – for example the Russian R is much stronger than the American R. And Germany has its own version of R as well. You can even see that they used the German R in the phonetic transcription provided.
The German version of R is denoted with a symbol of the capital R turned upside down (ʁ). The German R is pronounced by striking your palate a few times in a quick succession. That’s why it is sometimes called a trill or a roll. You can hear the voice actor pronounce the R in Porsche in the back of his mouth. Some people compare the German R sound to the throat-clearing sounds or gargling
English on another hand uses different version of R denoted by ɹ (or in some dictionaries by simply r). The English R is pronounced very differently than the German R. In English, your tongue shouldn’t touch your palate when pronouncing the R sound. This technique should give the R sound a soft quality. You can read more about pronouncing the English R in my other article.
And that’s why the R from the recording may sound foreign to you. After all, it is foreign.
Some people say Porsche, some Porsha. Why is that? If you have an ear for languages you can probably tell that the voice actor from the original Porsche pronunciation video ends the Porsche with an eh. At the same time the phonetic transcription is showing you that that’s the unaccented vowel schwa. If you are a speaker of English you would pronounce schwa as uh. Something here doesn’t make sense..
Recall, that the original pronunciation in Porsche is recorded by a native speaker of German. In German the same vowel schwa can be pronounced as either a-schwa or e-schwa depending on the context. In the word final position for example as in danke (thank you in German) or Porshe the speakers of German will always use the e-schwa. And they will rightfully advocate for por-sheh pronunciation ending with eh.
In English, we don’t have the e-schwa sound. Hence, it is perfectly fine to say Por-shah instead. That way your pronunciation of Porsche will be more consistent with your speech and easier to follow for others. If you throw in the German Por-sheh in the middle of an otherwise perfectly English sentence you may create an unexpected effect – your audience may find it difficult to register what you said or look for a reason why you decided to pronounce it that way. Perhaps to demonstrate your relations with the brand, educate them or sound posh.
Question: Why saying Porsch is technically wrong?
Answer: Porsche has 2 syllables in its original German pronunciation. That’s not a good enough argument but the reason why the Porsche brand is also promoting the 2 syllable pronunciation of Porsche in English. It’s their name and they have the right to decide. And that’s a good argument. That’s also why Por-shuh with 2 syllables should always be your first choice. Having said that you also have the right to be understood. Many people, perhaps due to the lack of knowledge, say Porsch and that fact is officially recognized by some dictionaries. If you tried Por-shuh and that didn’t work in your setting feel free to switch to Porsch to accommodate others. In other settings, revert back and use the universally accepted version with 2 syllables.
Question: Is it OK to skip the R when pronouncing Porsche?
Answer: If you are a speaker of English with a non-rothic accent (e.g. British Received Pronunciation) it is absolutely OK for you to go with your usual silent R. In the case of Porsche the R is followed by the consonant sh and that’s why you can apply the silent R rule as usual. That way your pronunciation of Porsche will be more consistent with your speech and as a result more easy to follow for others. If you are a speaker of a rothic English accent or a speaker of German there is no reason for you to skip the R. Also, you are customarily NOT expected to be familiar with sounds from foreign languages like the German R. To be able render those well you would need a specialized pronunciation training.
QUESTION: Do I say por-shuh or por-sheh?
Answer: When you speak English por-shuh with unaccented ah at the end works perfectly fine. Interestingly, both the original German pronunciation and the English pronunciation of Porsche use the same unaccented vowel called schwa. However, while in English it is most often pronounced as uh, in German schwa can be pronounced as a-schwa or e-schwa as in danke (thank you in German) or Porshe. Hence, the speakers of German will rightfully advocate for por-sheh. For the speakers of English though – it is perfectly OK to use the English schwa sound. It would be unfair to expect the speakers of English to render the German e-schwa properly.
Question: Can I say Por-shaah accenting both the first and the second syllable?
Answer: No! Porsche has only one accented syllable – the first one. If you accent both the first and the second syllable saying POR-shaah the way Joey did it you will end up with a comical effect. Unless, of course that’s your intention.
What does that mean to you? Let’s summarize:
- The correct way to say Porsche in English is POR-shuh. Two syllables and accent on the first one.
- Ross got it wrong. You don’t say Porsh. Joey overdid it with Por-shaah. But this created a comical effect and you were able to get the difference so it paid off. In this case only.
- Unless you speak German, don’t bother with the differences in R or e-shwa sound while pronouncing Porsche! Use sounds from your language. And focus your energy on making sure your Porsche has two syllables and its last sound isn’t too long.