How to pronounce letters B and V in Spanish?

Lots of kids have spelling problems with the letters B and V because they sound the same in Spanish.

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

Actually, English B sounds similar to Spanish letter P.

Spanish natives can normally guess what you mean if you pronounce these 2 letters as in English.

Not always, but normally.

However, the pronunciation of the letters V and B tell apart Spanish native speakers. And it may cause some misunderstandings.

In this post we’ll see:

  • The 2 ways to pronounce the letters B and V in Spanish.
  • How to produce each of the 2 sounds and some tips.
  • When to say each of the sounds.
  • Examples.

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

1. STOPPING B / STOPPING V 

  • IPA symbol: [b].
  • Sound: Similar to English B. Similar, not the same.

Tips to pronounce STOPPING B / V

  • Open your mouth slowly.
  • 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 – but smoother.

When should I pronounce STOPPING B and STOPPING V?

1. At the beginning of the word.
barco, beso, bien, bueno.
vivir, viento, volar.

2. -mb-
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. BLOWN B and 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.

When should I pronounce BLOWN B / V?

1. 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/ your lips don’t touch. If you want to pronounce a STOPPING B/V, your lips should be: first together and then get separated.
  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.

Common misunderstandings with the letters B and V

When a Spaniard speaks in Spanish and say a word which starts with [p] (pala, pecar, parra, pazo), English natives might think we are saying a word which 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

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