How to pronounce the letter G in Spanish?
The letter G is one of the most difficult letters to master and pronounce like a Spanish native speaker, since we have 3 different sounds for this letter and, in most of the cases, the Spanish G sounds different from the English G.
In English, it exists only one out of the 3 sounds that we use in Spanish, and it’s the less common sound: [g].
Today you’ll see:
- The 3 ways to say the letter G in Spanish.
- How to pronounce each of the 3 sounds.
- When to use each pronunciation.
- Examples of words for each sound of Spanish G.
Table of contents
- 1 Hard G (ge, gi)
- 2 SOFT G (ga, go, gu / g+consonant)
- 2.1 1. SOFT G (beginning / ng)
- 2.2 2. THE SOFTEST G (in the middle)
- 3 In short: Pronunciation of the letter G
Hard G (ge, gi)
[X] is the symbol of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) that represents the sound of Spanish G when it sounds hard.
When should I pronounce the letter G as HARD G?
Only when the letter G is followed by an E or an I: ge, gi. Then, we pronounce it like the Spanish J.
Examples of words with HARD G
ge: generoso, gente, argentino, agenda.
¡La geografía y la historia son super interesantes!
gi: gigante, energía, Egipto.
Los egipcios eran una civilización muy avanzada
How do I say the HARD G?
Spanish natives pronounce the letter G like the letter J in Spanish. The sound is close to the English H but raspier.
The picture below shows where the Spanish HARD G and the English H are produced:
- the number 8 corresponds to HARD G or [X].
- the number 9 corresponds to the English H.
Have you noticed that not all Spaniards pronounce the HARD G with the same intensity?
In fact, in the South of Spain and Latin America, they normally pronounce the letter G (HARD G) very similar to the English H so don’t worry if the sound you get isn’t very raspy.
Tips to pronounce the HARD G
Say «house». Now, pronounce the English H but lift your tongue a little bit, just as if you were pronouncing the letter K.
You don’t need to pronounce the HARD G very raspy if you find it difficult. Actually, you can produce the [X] sound anywhere in between numbers 8 and 9 on the image above.
Or you can simply pronounce it like a strong English H.
SOFT G (ga, go, gu / g+consonant)
When the letter G is followed by A/O/U or a consonant, the sound is much softer than [X] because the sound is produced in a different part of the mouth.
Depending on the position of the letter G in the sentence and in the word, it will sound in two different ways:
- SOFT G [g]
- THE SOFTEST G [ɣ].
Let’s see the 2 of them.
1. SOFT G (beginning / ng)
The symbol that represents SOFT G is [g].
When should I pronounce the letter G as a SOFT G?
We use this sound only:
- At the beginning of the sentence.
- After the letter N.
Examples in Spanish with the SOFT G sound
1. At the beginning of the word and sentence.
ga, go, gu
gas, gato, gafas.
gol, gota, golondrina.
gubernamental, Gustavo, guapo.
Ganaron el óscar.
Gustavo ganó el partido.
In the last sentence, the letter G in «ganó» is pronounced as a soft G [ɣ] because it isn’t at the beginning of the sentence.
globo, gluten, glicerina.
grande, grillo, Groenlandia.
Groenlandia es un país increíble.
Los paisajes de Groenlandia son increíbles.
The letter G in «Groenlandia» is pronounced as a soft G [ɣ] because it isn’t at the beginning of the sentence.
engrasar, engordar, engatusar, inglés.
Estuve un mes aprendiendo inglés en Gales.
Toco en un grupo de rock.
The sound of the SOFT G
The Spanish G sounds a little softer than the English G.
It doesn’t sound like the G in gas, go or gate.
It sounds more like the G in English.
Tips to say the SOFT G like a Spanish native
Relax your tongue to get the sound of Spanish G.
The SOFT G doesn’t have the touch of /k/ that the letter G usually has in English.
2. THE SOFTEST G (in the middle)
It’s the most common sound for the letter G in Spanish.
[ɣ] is the symbol of the IPA that represents the sound of THE SOFTEST G.
When should I pronounce the letter G as THE SOFTEST G?
We use THE SOFTEST G sound when the letter G is in the middle of a sentence/word, except after the letter N (-ng-).
Examples in Spanish with THE SOFTEST G sound
ga, go, gu
pagar, alga, salga, vaga.
lago, ciego, agotado, agosto.
aguja, igual, agujero, agua.
Yo sé que pasó algo en ese lago, pero Gustavo no me lo cuenta.
Eres igual que Agustín: sólo piensas en ganar.
The letter G in «ganar» is pronounced as [g] because it’s after the letter N: en ganar.
The sound of the SOFTEST G
This sound doesn’t exist in English.
It is so soft that some English natives have trouble to identify it.
When THE SOFTEST G is followed by U (gu), you may even hear a /w/ sound. For example, when we say «agua«, you might hear /awa/.
Tips to pronounce THE SOFTEST G
When we pronounce THE SOFTEST G, we don’t stop the flow of air -as we do with the SOFT G- but we go smoothly from one sound to the next one.
This means that we can hold the [ɣ] sound as long as we have air in our lungs, while the [g] sound ends (and starts) as soon as we separate our tongue from the palate.
Imagine you have hairs in your palate and you have to caress them. The feeling in your throat/back palate should be similar to caress the hairs in your eyebrow or eyelashes, without actually touching the skin.
In short: Pronunciation of the letter G
Spanish natives pronounce the letter G in 3 different ways:
|HARD G||[X]||(ge, gi)|
|THE SOFTEST G||[ɣ]||
In the middle of the sentence, except -ng-.
Click to see how to pronounce other consonants in Spanish.