Pronunciation Guide

The following is intended to give you a general idea of Spanish pronunciation. Although not necessary for reading purposes, knowledge of the sounds is helpful if you also plan to speak the language.

The English words given below are not always exact equivalents of the Spanish sounds. When not, they are the closest approximation in English.

I. Vowels

Spanish vowels are pronounced quickly, clearly and sharply. They are never drawn out.

a, as in “father” amigo – friend
casa – house
e, as in “café” mesa – table
leche – milk
i, as in “machine” día – day
yanqui – Yankee, American
o, as in “open” lobo – wolf
todo – all, everything
u, as in “rule” or “moon” uno – a, an, one
mucho – many, much

II. Consonants 

b and v (pronounced identically)

As in “boy,” when occurring initially or after an n or m:

banco – bank, bench
vaso– glass
ambos – both
enviar – to send

In all other positions, this sound is very weak and the lips do not touch, or do so only barely:

Cuba – Cuba
saber – to know
uva – grape
abrir – to open

c

As in “cat,” before a, o, and u:

cama – bed
actor– actor
indicar – to indicate
Cuba – Cuba

As in “sun,” before e and i:

cinco – five
cero – zero
cansancio – tiredness

In most of Spain, the ce– and ci– combinations are pronounces like the -th in “thin.”

ch as in “chew”

chico – boy, small
ocho – eight

As in “dawn,” when occurring initially or after n and l:
diez – ten
donde – where
andar – to walk
aldea – villageAs in the th in “they” in all other positions:
lado – side
pared – wall
ciudad – city
tarde – late

F, lmnp and t are pronounced approximately as in English.

As in “go,” when occurring before a,o, and u, or after a consonant:
goma – rubber, tire
ganar – to gain (to win, to earn)
grande – great, largeAs in “house,” but stronger, when occurring before e and i:
gente – people
viaje – trip, voyage
gitano – Gypsy

h, always silent 

hacha – ax
hora – hour, time
coherente – coherent

j, as in the h in “house,” but stronger (same sound as occurs in ge– and gi– combinations): 

jota – J (letter of alphabet)
hija – daughter
lujo – luxury

k, as in English. Used only in foreign words. 

ll, as in “million” or as in the y in “yes”:

calle – street
millón – million
llover – to rain

ñ, as in “canyon”:

año – year
español – Spanish
panameño – Panamanian

qu, always followed by e or i as in English k (the u is silent): 

cheque – check
quizás – perhaps
equis – X (letter of alphabet)

r, pronounced by tapping the tip of the tongue against the gums of the upper front teeth: 

pero – but
caro – expensive
querer – to want, to love

rr, or the single initial r, or after n and l, pronounced by trilling the tip of the tongue against the gums of the upper front teeth: 

perro – dog
ron – rum
honra – honor

s

Usually as in “see”:
seis – six
casa – house
bastante – enoughAs in “rose,” when occurring before m, d, and g:
mismo – same
desde – since
desgracia – misfortune

w, as in English. Found only in foreign words.

As in “see,” when not between vowels:
extraño – strange
explicar – to explain
exclusivo – exclusiveAs in x in “exact,” when occurring between vowels:
existir – to exist
examinar – to examine
éxito – success

z, as in “see”: 

paz – peace
cazar – to hunt
zona – zone
In most of Spain, the z is pronounced like the th in “thin.”
Last revised on July 1, 2021.