Letter B and letter V in Spanish – How to Pronounce Them

Native speakers pronounce the letters B and V in 2 different ways -and none of them sounds as in English.

Lots of kids have spelling problems with these 2 letters because they sound the same in Spanish.

Spanish natives can normally guess what you mean if you pronounce the letter B or V as in English.

Not always, but normally.

However, the pronunciation of these 2 letters tells apart Spanish native speakers. And mispronouncing them may cause some misunderstandings.

Actually, English B sounds similar to Spanish letter P.

In this post we’ll see:

  • The 2 ways to pronounce the letters B and V in Spanish.
  • How to produce each of those 2 sounds (and some tips).
  • When to pronounce each one.
  • Examples of words that contain the letter B and the letter V.

What are the 2 ways to pronounce letters B and V in Spanish?

1. Letter B (and letter V) as a STOPPING B/V

Tips to pronounce STOPPING B and V

  • Your lips are together and the sound is produced when they are separated.
  • STOPPING B / V sounds softer than the English B (which is more sudden and clear).
  • It sounds similar to the letter B in chamber and embrace – and smoother than the letter B in boat.
Letter B in Spanish pronunciation how to say P lips toghether doesn't explode

When should I pronounce the letters B and V as a STOPPING B/V?

1. When a word begins with the letter B or letter V.
barco, beso, bien, bueno.
vivir, viento, volar.

2. After M.
hambre, cambio, hombre, lombriz

3. After N.

Vive en Barcelona.
Lo hice con buena intención.

¡Tiene un barco enorme!

envidia, envolver, invierno
Quiero una tarta con velas.
Juan vive en Viena
.

2. Letter B (and letter V) as a BLOWN B/V

Latter you will understand why I call it BLOWN.

  • IPA symbol: [β].
  • Sound: This sound doesn’t exist in English.

Tips to pronounce BLOWN B / V

  • Your lips are not hermetically sealed.
  • The sound is produced by letting a trickle of air escape from your mouth, as you do when you pronounce the English V. But there’s one difference:
  • When you pronounce the Spanish BLOWN B / V [β], you produce the sound with your upper and lower lip. Your teeth don’t make any function.
Differences between Spanish B and English B letter V how to say it lips separated touch
When you pronounce BLOWN B [β] there’s a gap between your lips

When should I pronounce the letters B and V as a BLOWN B/V?

1. When the lettes B or V are in the middle of the word.
abrir, hablar, abuelo, sabor.
cava, ave, uva, calavera.

2. In the middle of the sentence.

Me gustaría ir a Barcelona en barco.
Te mereces una  buena recompensa.
El barco no puede zarpar.

Viví en Nueva York mucho tiempo.
Al volver del viaje vi a un viejo amigo*.

Could you guess why the letter B in en barco” and the letter V in un viejo amigo aren’t blown, – like the rest of B’s and V’s in the examples?

It’s because there’s an N before (un viejo, en barco). The letters B and V are blown when they’re in the middle of the word or sentence. Except after N and M.

Go back to to the previous sound ( [b] ).

Differences between STOPPING and BLOWN B and V

  1. To produce the Blown B/V it should be a gap between your lips.
    When you pronounce a STOPPING B/V, your lips are together.
  2. You can hold the BLOWN B/V sound as long as you want. Or until you run out of air.
    The STOPPING B/V sound lasts only a few milliseconds. The sound of the letter B and V ends as soon as you separate your lips.

Common misunderstandings with the letters B and V

When a Spaniard speaks in Spanish and say a word that starts with P (pala, pecar, parra, pazo), English natives might think we are saying a word that starts with B. And the other way around.

Because Spanish P sounds closer to English B.

An English native sais/understands…A Spaniard understands/sais…
BalaPala
BecarPecar
BarraParra
BazoPazo
An English native sais/understand…A Spaniard understands/sais…
BearPear
BootPut
BinPin
BullPull

These are only 2 of the 37 sounds of Spanish. The more sounds you master, the more fluently and naturally you’ll speak and the better you’ll understand Spanish natives.

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Recipients » Your data will be stored in Mailchimp (email marketing provider) that also complies with the RGPD so that everything is protected by law. See Mailchimp privacy policy: (https://mailchimp.com/legal/privacy/).
Rights » You can exercise your rights, among others, to access, rectify, limit and delete your data.