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.

HARD G (ge, gi)

IPA symbol

[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:

  • #8 corresponds to HARD 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 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.

STOPPING G or 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.

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 will sound in two different ways:

  1. STOPPING G or SOFT G [g]
  2. AIRY G or 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].

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

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 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 un grupo de rock.

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 more like the G in English.

Tips to say the STOPPING 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. AIRY G or THE SOFTEST 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).

When should I pronounce the letter G as AIRY G?

We use 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

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 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.

In short: Pronunciation of the letter G

Spanish natives pronounce the letter G in 3 different ways:

HARD G[X](ge, gi)

STOPPING G

(Soft G)

[g]
  1. At the beginning of the sentence
    (ga, go, gu / g+consonant)
  2. (ng)

AIRY G

(The softest G)

[ɣ]

In the middle of the sentence/word, except -ng- (ga, go, gu / g+consonant)

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.