Not many people try to pronounce the letter D like a Spanish native. This is totally fine because we can understand you if you pronounce it as you do in your mother tongue, although that sound doesn’t exist in Spanish. Actually, the sound of English D is closer to a Spanish soft R.
Improving the pronunciation of the letter D in Spanish is very simple and you can reduce your accent drastically with few tips.
These are the 2 different sounds -or 3 depending on the region- for the letter D:
1. HARD D
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol
The IPA symbol for the HARD D is a lowercase letter D: [d]. The symbol is the same in English although it sounds different in each language.
To help you pronouncing Spanish, I created this image with the 37 Spanish sounds and examples for each sound.
The sound of the HARD D + Mouth positioning
It doesn’t exist in English.
It sounds similar but the Spanish D is produced in a different part of the mouth and for this reason, it sounds a little different.
When should I use the HARD D? Examples
- At the beginning of a sentence or after a pause.
Dicen que va a llover.
De vez en cuando deja de funcionar.
- After L or N.
Espalda, andar, sandalia.
Una vez al día.
Me gusta la pasta al dente.
¿Cuando te vas? Me voy en dos días.
Donde caben dos, caben tres.
- In order to emphasize.
Tips to pronounce the HARD D
This sound is produced by the mouth -not by the throat but I’ll explain this later.
Your tongue pokes out between your teeth and it touches (at the same time):
- Your upper teeth
- Your alveolar ridge (palate) and
- Your lower teeth
In English, the tongue only touches your palate and it has more tension.
Your tongue pushes your teeth and palate and the sound is produced when it’s separated from them.
The letter D has a dry and short sound. It ends immediately after it starts. This is because the HARD D sound is produced by your mouth and not by your throat. It’s a voiceless sound.
What it that?
Touch your throat and notice that it doesn’t vibrate when you pronounce the letter D. If it does, then you are pronouncing a different sound.
There are no other letters in Spanish with the same sound as HARD D.
However, the position of your mouth is exactly the same when you pronounce the letter T in Spanish.
2. SOFT D or BLOWING D
This is the sound you’ll hear most of the time when a native speaker pronounces a Spanish D. The best part of this sound is that it exists in English.
The symbol which represents the SOFT D is a little bit different from a letter D: [ð].
How to say the SOFT D
It’s pronounced like “th” in those, this and although.
It doesn’t sound like “th” in through, throat or thief.
It doesn’t sound like the letter D in drive, end or address.
When should you use the SOFT D?
When the letter D is in the middle of the sentence it becomes weaker, above all if it’s between vowels.
(In colloquial speech, it could even be omitted. More info below).
Examples of words with the SOFT D
todo, lavado, adivinar
Tu padre viene después de desayunar.
Me dieron dos diamantes.
Lo que dice Ana es verdad.
In the last sentence, the last D (“verdad“) may not be pronounced as a soft D [ð], depending on the region. For more info, continue reading the third point: “The letter D at the end of the word”.
Tips to pronounce the SOFT D
(The position of your tongue is similar to the SOFT C).
Your tongue doesn’t touch your palate and it’s quite relaxed. Try putting the very tip of your tongue in between your teeth, like the “th” in this.
Your tongue is more relaxed when you pronounce this sound than when you pronounce the HARD D because this time your tongue doesn’t need to push anything nor block the air:
- The sound is produced by the throat (it’s a voiced sound) -if you touch your throat you will notice that it vibrates. The sound of SOFT C [θ] is the voiceless version of SOFT D [ð].
- The air comes out of your mouth between your tongue and your upper teeth.
Other letters with the same sound [ð] in Spanish
There are no letters with the same sound as SOFT D.
3. Five ways to pronounce the Spanish D at the end of the word
Depending on the region, Spanish natives pronounce the letter D at the end of a word or sentence in 5 different ways.
- Silent D.
- As a SOFT D [ð]
- As a Spanish T [t]
- As the letter Z [θ]
- As a Spanish SOFT R [r]
1. Silent D
Silent D is very common in colloquial speech. You can hear people dropping the letter D everywhere.
Me gusta Madrí
2. Soft D [ð]
This is the correct pronunciation. You can hear people pronouncing the letter D at the end of a word as [ð] in:
- Spain (Peninsula)
Me gusta Madrið.
If the following word starts with a vowel sound, we should pronounce the letter D as a SOFT D [ð], joined to the next word.
En navidá ðiré a esquiar.
Madrí ðes precioso.
Visitaré una ciuda ðimportante.
3. Letter T [t]
This is an exaggerated pronunciation. You’ll hear people pronouncing the letter D at the end of a word as [t] in:
- Spain (Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands)
Me gusta Madrit.
4. Letter Z [θ]
This isn’t a correct pronunciation but it’s accepted and very common in Madriz.
Me gusta Madriθ.
5. Letter R (SOFT R [r])
There’s quite a lot of people in Spain -high and low educated- who pronounce the letter D as [r] at the end of imperatives.
In short: Pronunciation of the Spanish D
1. At the beginning of the sentence, -ld- & -nd-
HARD D [d]
The closest sound to the English D. Pronounce it with the tongue behind your upper and lower teeth, rather than upon the alveolar ridge (on the hard palate).
Duende, respaldo, sandía
2. In the middle of the word (except -ld- & -nd-)
SOFT D [ð]
The Spanish D is normally pronounced as [ð] -the same sound you make when you say the word father.
Adivinar, cuaderno, ladrillo.
3. At the end of the word
The pronunciation will vary a little.
The four most common pronunciations are [ð], [t] (also with the tongue behind your teeth), [θ] (as in bath), or silent.
Venid, David, Madrid.