Pronunciation of letter B and letter V in Spanish

In Spanish, the letters B and V have the same pronunciation, but it changes depending on their position in a word (or sentence).

However, most Spanish natives don’t realize that they pronounce them in 2 different ways -and none of them sounds as in English.

Lots of kids have spelling problems with these 2 letters because they are pronounced the same.

Natives can normally guess what you mean if you pronounce them wrong but the pronunciation of the letters V and B tells apart Spanish native speakers. And mispronouncing them may cause some misunderstandings since English B sounds similar to the Spanish letter P -you have some examples at the end of the post.

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.

How to pronounce letters B and V in Spanish

There are 2 ways to pronounce these 2 letters:

1. HARD B and V (Stopping): [b]

It’s called stopping B (or V) because you need to block the air to produce the sound.

International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol

[b]

Tips to pronounce HARD B and V

It sounds similar to English B, but softer.

  • 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 HARD B?

1. When a word/sentence begins with the letter B or letter V.

barba, beso, bien, bueno
vivir, viento, volver

2. After M.

hambre, cambio, hombre, hombro

3. After N.

Vive en Barcelona.

Lo hice con buena intención.

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

2. SOFT B and V (Blown)

Later you will understand why I call it BLOWN.

IPA symbol

[β]

Tips to pronounce SOFT B or V

This sound doesn’t exist in English.

  • 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 SOFT?

1. When the letters B or V are in the middle of the word.

abrir, hablar, abuelo

avión, uva, Eva

2. In the middle of the sentence.

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

Viví en Nueva Zelanda mucho tiempo*.
Fui a Colombia para visitar un viejo amigo*.

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

It’s because there’s an N or M before the letters B or V (“en barco”, Colombia”, un viejo“), or the letter B is at the beginning of the sentence (“viví”). 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 the previous sound ( [b] ).

Differences between HARD (stopping) and SOFT (blowing) B and V

  1. To produce the SOFT B/V [β] it should be a gap between your lips.
    When you pronounce a HARD B/V [b], your lips are together.
  2. You can hold the SOFT B/V sound [β] as long as you want. Or until you run out of air.
    The sound of HARD B/V [b] lasts only a few milliseconds (it begins and ends as soon as you separate your lips).

3 exercises to practice

Common misunderstandings with the letters B and V

When a Spaniard speaks in Spanish and says 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 says/understands…A Spaniard understands/says…
BalaPala
BecarPecar
BarraParra
BazoPazo
An English native says/understand…A Spaniard understands/says…
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.

1 mistake (almost) everybody do every day they practice their Spanish,
that is preventing them from having a good pronunciation and connect with natives

And what to do instead

8 minutes and 57 seconds, and you can start doing the same from today, if you want.