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 of 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. Letter B (and letter V) as a STOPPING B/V
I call it stopping B (or V) because you need to block the air to produce the sound.
- International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol: [b].
- Sound: Similar to English B. Similar, not the same.
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.
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
Later 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 the letters B and V as a BLOWN B/V?
1. When the letters 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.
Differences between STOPPING and BLOWN B and V
- 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.
- 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 says/understands…||A Spaniard understands/says…|
|An English native says/understand…||A Spaniard understands/says…|
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.