The Amharic letters (ፊደላት) in the second chart have the consonants in rows and the vowels in columns. Each letter represents one consonant (or consonant cluster) and one vowel. There are seven written vowels in Amharic with each vowel altering the form of a consonant. All of the consonant-vowel combinations in the first column are called first orders, the ones in the second column are second orders, and so on. The first order is identical to the letters used in the original Ge'ez before the vocalizations were created centuries ago. The other six orders are alterations of the original Ge'ez letters. Each vowel order alters the Ge'ez letters in a similar way. Though there are many irregularities, the letters of the same order resemble one another in at least one aspect, the aspect that characterized the order.
Although the Amharic script can form simple syllables with one letter, it may take multiple letters to form one complex syllable. The complex syllables are formed using the sixth order, which serves the purposes of being a vowel carrier and of marking a mute consonant (without a vowel). For example, the Amharic word for "name", ስም, is one syllable but uses two letters. Although it is pronounced as /sɨm/ it could also be read as /ˈsɨmɨ/. There is no way to distinguish the sixth order's functions in written Amharic.
In the charts below, there are certain rows written in grey to indicate that such letters are of the same phonetic value as the previous row written in black. There are multiple ways to write some letters in Amharic as some of the sounds that were once used in Ge'ez are non-existent in modern Amharic. At the cost of redundancy, Amharic speakers retain the archaic letters in their orthography to preserve the Ge'ez origins of many of their words. Also, the English approximations are sometimes very rough, and they give only a general idea of the pronunciation.
|Vowel Orders||IPA||Transliteration||English Approximation|
|First Order||ɛ~ə||ä (e, eh)||The e in set (sometimes a schwa)|
|Second Order||ʊ~u||u (ou, oo)||The "oo" in foot or soon|
|Third Order||i||i (ii, ee)||The "ea" in seat|
|Fourth Order||ä||a (ah)||The "o" in cot SAE|
|Fifth Order||(ʲ)e||e, é (ie, ié)||Similar to "a" in Way except with no glide|
|Sixth Order||ɨ~ə||ə (i, ih)||The "e" in Roses (sometimes a schwa)|
|Seventh Order||o (ɔ)||o (oh or au)||The "oa" in Boat (or the au in maul)|
|IPA ||ɛ||u||i||ä||e||ɨ||o||ʷä||ʲɛ||English approximation||Transliteration|
|kʼ||ቀ||ቁ||ቂ||ቃ||ቄ||ቅ||ቆ||ቋ||Ski||q, ḳ, k', k|
|ɲ||ኘ||ኙ||ኚ||ኛ||ኜ||ኝ||ኞ||ኟ||Onion||ň, gn, ñ, ny|
|pʼ||ጰ||ጱ||ጲ||ጳ||ጴ||ጵ||ጶ||ጷ||Upper||p̣, p', p|
|ɾ ~ r||ረ||ሩ||ሪ||ራ||ሬ||ር||ሮ||ሯ||ፘ||Water SAE||r|
|ʃ||ሸ||ሹ||ሺ||ሻ||ሼ||ሽ||ሾ||ሿ||Short||š, sh, ʃ, sch|
|tsʼ||ጸ||ጹ||ጺ||ጻ||ጼ||ጽ||ጾ||ጿ||Pizza||ṣ, ts, ts', tz, z|
|tʃ||ቸ||ቹ||ቺ||ቻ||ቼ||ች||ቾ||ቿ||Church||č, ch, tʲ|
|tʃʼ||ጨ||ጩ||ጪ||ጫ||ጬ||ጭ||ጮ||ጯ||Achoo||č̣, č', ch', ch, tsch, ṭʲ|
|tʼ||ጠ||ጡ||ጢ||ጣ||ጤ||ጥ||ጦ||ጧ||Stick||ṭ, t', t|
|v ~ β||ቨ||ቩ||ቪ||ቫ||ቬ||ቭ||ቮ||ቯ||Vault||v|
|ʒ||ዠ||ዡ||ዢ||ዣ||ዤ||ዥ||ዦ||ዧ||Pleasure||ž, zh, z, s, j, g|
|ʔ||አ||ኡ||ኢ||ኣ||ኤ||እ||ኦ||ኧ||Uh-oh||ʾ , -|
|ʔ||ዐ||ዑ||ዒ||ዓ||ዔ||ዕ||ዖ||ʿ, ʾ, -|
|IPA||ɛ ~ ɔ||u||i||ä||e||ɨ ~ ʊ||o|
- The standard transliteration of the Ethiopian Semitic consonants and vowels are listed first (except for letters used for loanwords).
- The letter ä has two functions in this article. When it is shown in IPA (or between slashes) it represents the open central unrounded vowel. When ä is used in the transliteration it represents the first order vowel (usually ɛ).
- The Abugida uses the IPA pronunciations that are used specifically when reading the alphabet or spelling a word in Amharic. The letters' pronunciations in spoken Amharic sometime differ from the IPA vowels given in this chart (dependent on word and stress).
- The በ series is pronounced with the consonant /β/ in between two vowels.
- The ደ and ተ series are dentals unlike the English d & t (which are alveolar). The dentals are articulated at the top of the teeth instead of the Alveolar ridge.
- ሀ, ኀ, & ሐ are not pronounced as /hɛ/ nor are አ & ዐ pronounced like /ʔɛ/. Instead they are pronounced as if they were fourth orders (/hä/ & /ʔä/ respectively).
- The ቨ, ፐ, ጰ series along with the letter ኧ are all used for loan words. Sometimes ኸ is used to represent the Arabic خ in loanwords but ከ is usually used in modern Amharic instead.
- The ejectives have no equivalent in English. The way that ejectives are sounded is by building up pressure in your throat, like when you sneeze, and then release the built-up air as you articulate the consonant where you normally would. So, /t'/ and /t/ are articulated in the same place but the difference is whether you build up pressure or not.
- This sound was introduced through loan words. It is sometimes pronounced unaspirated as the "p" in spin and is often confused with the /b/ sound
- Sometimes when /ɛ/ and /ɨ/ are proceeded by /w/ the rounding carries over and they are pronounced like /wɔ/ and /wʊ/ respectively. Because of this, first and sixth orders of the ወ series are sometimes respelled with seventh and second orders respectively.
- The አ and ዐ series have lost their consonantal values and are vowel carriers in modern Amharic. Though sometimes the consonant /ʔ/ is pronounced in word initial and medial positions, the glottal stop is often dropped.
- ኧ, being irregular, is not pronounced like 'ʷa but like 'ä and is the only way to write such sound in Amharic.
- The modern ኀ isn't a velar. The character was once a velar in ancient Ge'ez, which is why it has a written labial form today, but it became a glottal fricative in modern Amharic. ኀ's labial form is the only way used to write /hʷ/ in Amharic.