Spanish Hiatus – When to pronounce the vowels separated + Examples

Have you ever tried to say a Spanish word but it sounded weird and you didn’t know why?

During years I tried to say the word «pronunciation» accurately. I used to produce every single sound quite clearly but the word still sounded strange and I didn’t understand the reason.

I wasn’t able to say that word without such a terrible Spanish accent.

Nobody told me what I was doing wrong.

When you say a Spanish word, it sounds weird and you don’t understand why, there are 3 possible reasons:

  1. You’re pronouncing wrong some sound. Learn how to produce every Spanish sound here.
  2. You’re adding vowels where they don’t belong.
  3. You’re separating vowels in different syllables (hiatus) or putting them together (diphthong or triphthong) when it doesn’t correspond.

That’s what I’m going to explain you: when to pronounce the Spanish vowels in different syllables.

One day I was watching a YouTube video. They were talking about pronunciation. I heard that word many times before I realized why I was saying it wrong. But I finally did.

This is what I was saying:
/pro.nun.cia.tion/

This is how it’s pronounced:
/pro.nun.ci-a.tion/

Why I did that?

In Spanish we say /pro.nun.cia.ción/, putting the vowels together.

I was following the Spanish pronunciation patterns so I had a terrible accent. I still have an accent.

Not that strong though.

Hiatus are a very important part of the pronunciation in any language.

Knowing when to pronounce the vowels in the same or different syllable will make your speech more clear. And it is easier than you think.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear idea on how to do it.

Remember:

  • Diphthong: 2 vowels pronounced in the same syllable (viernes, causa, cuidar).
  • Triphthong: 3 vowels pronounced in the same syllable (limpiéis, buey, riáis).

What is a hiatus?

As you might know, Spanish hiatus are 2 or 3 vowels which are written side by side but pronounced in separated syllables.

Examples of Spanish hiatus:
ps (pa-ís)
búho (bú-ho)
caía (ca-í-a)

How to identify Spanish hiatus

Exception

The 3 vowels are pronounced in the same syllable (triphthong) only when:

  • The vowels are (i/u) + (a/e/o) + (i/u) and
  • The weak vowels (i/u) never carry a tilde.

Ejemplos: es.tu.diáis, limpiéis, buey.

More info about triphthongs here.

Resume

To recognize a hiatus you only have to answer 2 questions:

1. Are there 2 open vowels?
2. Is there any í/ú (with the accent mark)?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you should split those vowels in different syllables.

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