Conquering the consonants–while you learn how to speak Spanish–may be a bit more difficult than the vowels. Spanish consonants are pronounced with more subtlety and some have variations.
TIP: Watch the video below to hear (and see) examples of the following consonants. The best way to learn how to speak Spanish is, of course, to hear it spoken.
b and v sound alike, with the following rules:
- At the beginning of a sentence or after m or n, b and v sound like the b in bat.
- In all other occurrences, do not close your lips all the way–let some air pass through.
c (see k and s).
ch has the same sound as the ch in cherry–never like the ch in chevron.
d has two sounds that follow these rules:
- At the beginning of a sentence and after n or l, d sounds similar to the d in day–perhaps slightly harder.
- In all other occurrences, pronounce d like the th in the, but softer.
f sounds the same as the English f.
g has two sounds with these rules:
- At the beginning of a sentence and after n, g is identical to the g in guard.
- In all other occurrences except before e or i (see j), pronounce g similar to the g in sugar–but softer.
h is silent except when combined with c to form ch.
j (and g before e or i) sounds like an exaggerated English h with the back of the tongue touching the soft palate (velum). The amount of exaggeration varies in Latin American countries.
k (and c before a, o, u or a consonant, and qu) sounds similar to the English k, minus the escape of air.
l sounds sort of like the English l, except try to use the tip of the tongue only.
ll and y sound the same with these two rules (and one exception):
- At the beginning of a sentence and after n or l, ll and y sound similar to the dg in edge, but softer.
- In all other occurrences, pronounce it like the y in yet.
- Exception: When y is alone or at the end of a word it sounds like the Spanish vowel i.
m sounds like the m in moth.
n sounds like the English n except for these two rules:
- before b, v or p, pronounce n like an m.
- Before k, g or j, pronounce n like the ng in sting.
ñ sounds like the ny in canyon.
p sounds similar to the English p, minus the escape of air.
r and rr – r sounds like the dd in ladder with this exception:
- r at the beginning of a sentence and after n, l or s, and rr in the middle of a word forms a trill–place the tip of the tongue behind and above the upper front teeth (alveolar ridge) and vibrate. Don’t worry about this one too much, it’s very difficult for native English speakers to master–just try your best. Never pronounce the Spanish r like the English r in run.
s, z and c before e or i, sounds similar to the s in such. When s is the last letter in a word, it is pronounced with an exhalation of breath (almost the sound of h) or dropped completely. Never pronounce z like the English z in zany.
t sounds like the English t, minus the escape of air.
x has two sounds with one exception:
- When surrounded by vowels, x sounds like the gs in eggs.
- Before a consonant, pronounce x like an s.
- Exception: The x in México and in names of historical Mexican people or places, is pronounced like the Spanish j.