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.

GUTURAL G (ge, gi)

IPA symbol

[X]

How do I say the GUTURAL G?

Spanish natives pronounce the letter G like the letter J in Spanish. The sound is close to the English H but raspier.

It sounds similar to the Scottish “loch” or the German “ch” in “Bach”.

The picture below shows where the Spanish GUTURAL G and the English H are produced:

  • #8 corresponds to GUTURAL G or [X].
  • #9 corresponds to the English H.
how to pronounce Spanish G J H pronunciation letter throat tongue like a native vs English

Have you noticed that not all Spaniards pronounce the GUTURAL G with the same intensity?

In fact, in the South of Spain and Latin America, they normally pronounce the letter G (GUTURAL G) very similar to the English H so don’t worry if the sound you get isn’t very raspy.

Tips to pronounce GUTURAL 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 GUTURAL 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.

When should I pronounce the letter G as GUTURAL 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 GUTURAL G

geografía, enera

More examples:

ge: generoso, gente, argentino, agenda.
¡La geografía y la historia son super interesantes!

gi: gigante, elegir, Egipto.
Esta chica siempre tiene enera; no sé cómo lo hace.

Regular G (or Stopping) and Soft G (or Airy)

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.

How to pronounce Spanish C K N mouth position tongue palate to sound more native like

Depending on the position of the letter G in the sentence, and in the word, it’ll sound in two different ways:

  1. STOPPING G [g]
  2. AIRY G (the softest G) [ɣ].

Let’s see the 2 of them.

1. STOPPING G (beginning or -ng-)

IPA symbol

The symbol that represents STOPPING G is [g].

The sound of the STOPPING 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 a little softer).
It sounds more like the G in English.

Tips to say the STOPPING G like a Spanish native

The SOFT G  doesn’t have the touch of /k/ that the letter G usually has in English.

To get the sound of Spanish G, try to pronounce it with your tongue relaxed.

When should I pronounce the letter G as a STOPPING G?

We use this sound only:

  • At the beginning of the sentence.
  • After the letter N.

Examples in Spanish with the STOPPING G sound

gas, gol, engrasar

More examples:

1. At the beginning of the word and sentence.

ga, go, gu
gato, gafas, gastar.
gota, golondrina, gorra.
gubernamental, Gustavo, guapo.
Ganaron el óscar.
Gustavo y Elena ganaron la partida. 

In the last sentence, the letter G in ganaron” is pronounced as a softer G [ɣ] because it isn’t at the beginning of the sentence.  

gl, gr
globo, gluten, glicerina.
grande, grillo, Groenlandia.
Groenlandia es un país increíble.
Los paisajes de Groenlandia son increíbles.

The letter G in “Groenlandia” is pronounced softer [ɣ] because it isn’t at the beginning of the sentence.

2. After N (-ng-)
engrasar, engordar, engatusar, inglés.
Estuve un mes aprendiendo inglés en Gales.
Toco en u
n grupo de rock.

2. AIRY G (in the middle)

It’s the most common sound for the letter G in Spanish.

IPA symbol

[ɣ] is the symbol of the IPA that represents the sound of AIRY G (the softest G).

The sound of the AIRY G

This sound doesn’t exist in English.

It is so soft that some English natives think it’s silent.

When AIRY 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 AIRY G and differences with SOFT G

  1. The tongue doesn’t touch the palate. When we pronounce AIRY 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.
  2. 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.
differences between Spanish G vs English G pronunciation air pass the throat doesn't touch 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.

When should I pronounce the letter G as AIRY G?

We use the AIRY G sound when the letter G is in the middle of a sentence/word, except after the letter N (-ng-).

Examples in Spanish with AIRY G sound

pagar, algo, agua

More exmples:

ga, go, gu
alga, salga, vaga, larga.
lago, ciego, agotado, agosto.
aguja, igual, agujero, igual.
Yo sé que pasó algo en ese la
go, 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. 

In short: Pronunciation of the letter G

Spanish natives pronounce the letter G in 3 different ways:

GUTURAL G

[X]
  • ge: gel, genética
  • gi: ginebra, gigante

STOPPING G

[g]
  1. At the beginning of the sentence
    (ga, go, gu / g+consonant): Gambas, Gris.
  2. nginglés, manga

AIRY G

[ɣ]

In the middle of the sentence/word (except -ng-):

  • ga, go, gu: pagar, vago, agua
  • g+consonant: aglomerado, agradable

There are other 3 letters that have a STOPPING, and a BLOWING or AIRY version:

Click to see how to pronounce other consonants in Spanish.

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.