Spanish Grammar For Dummies
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In general, consonants tend to sound the same in English and Spanish when they are spoken within a word. But you’ll find a few differences in how certain consonants are pronounced in Spanish. Sometimes two letters have the same sound; other times one letter can be pronounced two ways. And in one instance, a letter is always silent! The following sections cover letters that may trip you up.

B and V: They share a sound

The consonants b and v are pronounced the same, the sound being somewhere between the two letters. This in-between pronunciation is a fuzzy, bland sound — closer to v than to b. If you position your lips and teeth to make a v sound, and then try to make a b sound, you’ll have it. To remind you to make this sound, the letter combination of bv is used in the pronunciation brackets for the sounds for both b and v:
  • bulevar (bvoo-leh-bvahr) (boulevard)

  • verbo (bvehr-boh) (verb)

C: The sound depends on the vowel

You can pronounce the consonant c in two ways, just like you can in English. It all depends on what letter follows it. A c in front of the vowels a, o, or u or any consonant but h sounds like the English k. The letter k designates this sound the pronunciation brackets:
  • colocar (koh-loh-kahr) (to put)

  • ocaso (oh-kah-soh) (sunset)

When the letter c is in front of the vowels e or i, it sounds like the English s. In the pronunciation brackets, this sound is signaled as s:
  • acero (ah-seh-roh) (steel)

  • dulce (dool-seh) (sweet)

G: One letter, two sounds

The letter g has multiple personalities. When you combine g with a consonant or when you see it in front of the vowels a, o, and u, it sounds like the g in goose:
  • begonia (bveh-goh-neeah) (begonia)

  • gato (gah-toh) (cat)

The g changes personality in front of the vowels e and i. It sounds like the Spanish j (or the English h), which is signaled by the capital H in the pronunciation brackets:
  • agenda (ah-Hehn-dah) (agenda)

  • gerente (Heh-rehn-teh) (manager)

To hear the sound g (as in goat) in front of the vowels e and i, you must insert a u, making gue- and gui-. To remind you to make the goat sound (not mmehehe, but g), you’ll see gh in the pronunciation brackets:
  • guía (gheeah) (guide)

  • guerra (gheh-rrah) (war)

H: Seen, but not heard

In Spanish, the letter h is always mute when it’s used in a word. That’s it!
  • hijo (ee-Hoh) (son)

  • huevo (ooeh-bvoh) (egg)

J: A bit of a tongue twister

The pronunciation of the consonant j sounds like a guttural h. To pronounce the letter j within a word, say your h, but gently raise the back of your tongue, as if you’re saying k. Push the air out real hard, and you’ll get the sound. It's almost like gargling!

A capital letter H within the pronunciation brackets signals this sound:

  • Jijón (Hee-Hohn) (the name of a city in Spain)

  • tijera (tee-Heh-rah) (scissors)

K: Rare, but mighty

In Spanish, the letter k is used only in words that have their origin in foreign languages. More often than not, this letter is seen in kilo (kee-loh), meaning thousand. An example is kilómetro (kee-loh-meh-troh) (kilometer).

Q: Quirky, but common

The letter q is the substitute for k in Spanish. When the k sound is needed in front of the vowels e and i, it unfolds the letter combination qu (only a handful of Spanish words begin with qua- or quo-). The pronunciation of q is indicated by the letter k in pronunciation brackets:
  • paquete (pah-keh-teh) (package)

  • pequeño (peh-keh-nyoh) (small)

S and Z: Two letters, one sound

The consonants s and z both sound like the English letter s. The letter s is used in the pronunciation brackets to signal this sound:
  • sorpresa (sohr-preh-sah) (surprise)

  • zarzuela (sahr-sooeh-lah) (Spanish-style operetta)

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