Letter D

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How to pronounce the letter D in Spanish?

Not many people try to pronounce the letter D like a Spanish native. This is totally fine because we can easily understand you and English natives 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

IPA symbol

The symbol for the HARD D is a lowercase letter D: [d]. This symbol is the same in English although the 2 sounds aren’t exactly the same.

The sound of the HARD D

The sound of HARD D doesn’t exist in English.

It’s similar to the sound of the letter D in English 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

  1.  At the beginning of a sentence or after a pause.
    Dicen que va a llover.
    De ven en cuando.
    ¿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. In order to emphasize.
    ¡Te-he-dicho-que-no!

Tips to pronounce the HARD D

The letter D has a dry and short sound. It ends immediately after it starts.

Your tongue pokes out between your teeth and it touches (at the same time):

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 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.

This sound is produced by the mouth -not by the throat (it’s a voiceless sound). Touch your throat and notice that it doesn’t vibrate.  If it does, it’s because you are pronouncing a vowel sound after [d].

There are no other letters with the same sound as HARD D in the Spanish language.

However, the position of your mouth when saying HARD D is exactly the same when you pronounce the letter T in Spanish.

2. SOFT 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.

IPA symbol

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).

Pronunciation of the letter D in Spanish soft like th in English the air comes out of the mouth between the teeth and tongue. It's a voiced sound.

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.

  1. No sound. Dopping the letter D.
  2. As a SOFT D [ð]
  3. As a Spanish T [t]
  4. As the letter Z [θ]
  5. As a Spanish SOFT R [r]

1. Dropping the letter D

This is very common in colloquial speech. You can hear people dropping the letter D everywhere.

Examples:

Madríd
Verdád
Ciudád
Libertád
Navidád
 
Ya es Navidad .
Me gusta Madríd.
Vivo en mi ciudád favorita.
 
There are more cases in which the letter D isn’t pronounced. Soon I’ll write about it.
(When the following word starts with a vowel sound, we should pronounce the letter D [ð]).

2. Soft D [ð]

This is the correct pronunciation. You can hear people pronouncing letter D at the end of a word as [ð] in:

  • Spain (Peninsula)
  • Mexico
  • Argentina

Examples:

Madríð
Verdáð
Ciudáð
Libertað
Navidáð
 
Ya es Navidað .
Me gusta Madríð.
Vivo en mi ciudáð favorita.

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.

Examples:

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 letter D at the end of a word as [t] in:

  • Mexico
  • Argentina
  • Spain (Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands)

Examples:

Madrít
Verdát
Ciudát
Libertat
Navidát
 
Ya es Navidat .
Me gusta Madrit.
Vivo en mi ciudát favorita.

4. Letter Z [θ]

This isn’t a correct pronunciation but it’s accepted and very common in Madriz.

Examples:

Madríθ
Verdáθ
Ciudáθ
Libertaθ
Navidáθ
 
Ya es Navidaθ.
Me gusta Madriθ.
Vivo en mi ciudáθ favorita.

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.

Examples:

Venid (venir)
Abrid (abrir)
Tirad (tirar
)
Cerrad (cerrar)
Coged (coger)
 
In fact, lots of these Spanish natives, make a mistake not only when pronouncing but also when writing the imperative form of any verb with the letter R instead of D.
In shops or restaurants, you may find signs like:
 
Cerrar la puerta, por favor.
Entar por la otra puerta.
Tirar las compresas en la papelera, gracias.
 
Or hear a mum calling his kids: «¡venir aquí ahora mismo!»

In short: Pronunciation of the Spanish D

1. At the beginning of the word, -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.

Exercise

Could you say how to pronounce the bold letters in the following sentence?

Diego dice que viene en dos minutos.

 Possible answers:
a) [d], [d], [d]
b) [ð], [ð], [d]
c) [ð], [d], [ð]
d) [d], [ð], [d]

(Click here to see the answer)

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