How to pronounce letter D in Spanish

Spanish natives usually understand if you pronounce the letter D as you do in your mother tongue, although:

  • Sometimes natives will have to make an extra effort to guess your message: that sound you pronounce doesn’t exist in Spanish.
  • It may cause some misunderstanding since the sound of English D is similar to a Spanish T.
    Example: día – tía.

In Spanish, there’s more than one way to pronounce Spanish D, but Spanish-speakers perceive them as the same sound (similar to how English speakers perceive the letter P in “pin” as the same as in “spin”).

So they’ll tell when you don’t pronounce this letter like a native, but they won’t be able to tell you why.

Improving the pronunciation of the letter D in Spanish is very simple and you can reduce your accent drastically with a few tips.

As a general rule, there are 2 different sounds for the letter D (HARD D and SOFT D). That’s what we’re going to cover in this post, but know that you may hear Spanish D -when it’s at the end of the word- pronounced in 6 different ways.

1. HARD D

International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol

[]

The symbol is the same in English although it sounds different in each language.

Why there is one symbol representing 2 different sounds?

Ok, the symbol it’s the same: [d], but there’s one tiny difference:

Spanish HARD D has a small symbol under it, to remind us that it’s produced in a different part of the mouth (I’ll explain more about how to pronounce Spanish D in the next point):

To help you pronounce Spanish, I created this image with the 33 Spanish sounds and examples for each sound.

How to pronounce HARD D []

This sound doesn’t exist in English.

HARD D it’s a mix between the regular English D, and “th” in those”, but (this is important) always keeping the tongue behind your teeth.

That’s why we, Spanish speakers listening to English, have trouble distinguishing words like “then” and “den”.

Letter D is the only letter in Spanish that may sound like HARD D.

Mouth positioning

Spanish D is produced in a different part of the mouth and for this reason, it sounds a little different than English D.

How to pronounce Spanish D and T letter vs English difference in pronunciation mouth positioning tongue agaist the teeth upper and lower
#3 corresponds to Spanish D
#4 corresponds to English D

The sound is produced only by the mouth -not by the throat.

Your tongue pokes out between your teeth and it’s in contact -at the same time- with:

  • Your upper teeth
  • Your alveolar ridge (palate) and
  • Your lower teeth
How to pronounce the letter D and letter T Mouth positioning for the letters D and T in Spanish hard D tongue against your upper and lower teeth and your alveolar ridge or palate. It's a voiceless sound.

Your tongue pushes your teeth and palate – and the sound is produced when your tongue separates from them.

The position of your mouth is the same when you pronounce the letter T in Spanish.

However, when you pronounce English D, the tongue only touches your palate and has more tension.

When should I use the HARD D []? Examples

  1.  At the beginning of a sentence or after a pause.
    Dicen que va a llover.
    De vez en cuando deja de funcionar.
    ¿Sí? ¿Diga?

  2. 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.

  3. To emphasize.
    ¡Te-he-dicho-que-no!

2. SOFT D or BLOWING D

This is the sound you’ll usually hear when a native speaker pronounces a Spanish D. The best part is that it exists in English.

IPA symbol

[ð]

How to say SOFT D [ð]

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.

There isn’t any Spanish letter with the same sound as SOFT D [ð].

Mouth positioning [ð]

The position of your tongue is similar to the SOFT C or “th” in those”.

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.

mouth positioning for Spanish D or soft D

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 (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.

When should you use the SOFT D [d]?

When the letter D is in the middle of the sentence it becomes weaker, mainly if it’s between vowels.

(In colloquial speech, it could even be omitted. More info below).

Examples of words with the SOFT D [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 letter D at the end of the word”.

In short: Pronunciation of the Spanish D

Spanish speakers wouldn’t believe the two Ds in “dedo” are not the same sound, just as most English speakers wouldn’t believe the two Ps in “paper” are different.

1. At the beginning of the sentence, -ld- & -nd-

HARD D [d]

Duende, respaldo, sandía

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).

2. In the middle of the word (except -ld- & -nd-)

SOFT D [ð]

Adivinar, cuaderno, ladrillo.

The Spanish D is normally pronounced as [ð] -the same sound you make when you say father.

Except if the letter comes after L or N.

 

3. At the end of the word.

Venid, David, Madrid.

There are 6 different ways to pronounce the letter D at the end of a word.

The four most common pronunciations are [ð], [t] (also with the tongue behind your teeth), [θ] (as in bath), or silent. But there’s one pronunciation that you probably don’t expect.

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.