The Grammar Page

Grammar Basics



Spanish 101A

Spanish 101B

The drlemon

FAQs & About drlemon©®

Email me!

Creative Commons License by Deborah R. Lemon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

In the Spanish alphabet, the ch, ll, rr and ñ traditionally are individual letters. In many dictionaries the Ch still follows C so that copia and cuchillo come before chaleco. The same follows for L and LL, n and ñ. This also happens with r and rr when they occur in the middle of words (as noted below, rr is spelled r when it begins a word.)

In 1995 the Spanish alphabet was revised to eliminate most of the compound letters. Therefore, the Spanish alphabet has all the letters of the English alphabet except for the additional ñ. However, many dictionaries still adhere to the traditional letters. Some Latin American countries have not decided to follow Spain's lead in this matter. Also, these traditional letters are still used when spelling aloud. Therefore it is important to know the original standard Spanish alphabet.

Here is the Spanish alphabet with Spanish and English pronunciation examples. 

The English examples are the definitions of the Spanish examples unless otherwise noted with this symbol: --. Click on the footnotes to the left of certain letters to find more information about their specific sounds.

Spanish Name
Spanish example
English example
a a padre father
b be grande/be larga bomba bomb
1*  c ce cadáver
ch che nacho nacho
2*   d de detective detective
e e español -- pronounced like the "e" in `egg'.
f efe fábrica factory
 3*  g ge gobierno



--pronounced like the  English letter "h"

4*  h hache honor honor (the letter "h" is always silent)
i i policía police
j jota justicia [justice] --pronounced like the English letter "h"
5*   k ka kilómetro kilometer
l ele legal legal
ll elle llave [key] --pronounced like the English letter "y", as in "yahoo"
m eme madre mother
n ene nacionalidad nationality
ñ eñe cañón canyon
o o votar vote
p pe península peninsula
6*  q cu química chemistry
r ere pariente [a relative] --a 'tap' like the 'd' sound in the English word 'ladder'
7*   rr  erre radio --a 'trill', extend the 'tap'
s ese sopa soup
t te texto text
u u uniforme --pronounced like the English 'u' in 'tutor'
8*  v ve chica/ve corta vendaje bandage
9*   w doble ve or uve doble Washington Washington
x equis excelente excellent
y i griega Yucatán
z zeta zapatos [shoes] --an 's' sound, as in 'socks'

1* The letter C sounds like a "k" when it is followed by the vowels a, o and u: casa, cosa, cuchara.  It is pronounced as an "s" when it is followed by the vowels i and e: ciudad, cebra.  This occurs in English as well: carrot, cold and cucumber, but celery and city.

2* When D is intervocalic (between two vowels) as in the word nada [nothing], or occurs at the end of a word, like verdad[truth], it is pronounced like the "th" in the English word "they": NAH-thah, ver-DATH.

3* The letter G is hard (like the English G in "gate") when it is followed by the vowels a, o and u: gato, gordo, gusto.  It is soft (like the English 'H') when it is followed by the vowels i and e: gimnasio, general.  (By the way, this occurs in English as well although with different "g" sounds: game, gone and gulp, but gentle and giraffe.)

4* The letter H is always silent.  You might try to pretend it is invisible too, when you see words with h's.  For example, the verb hay  is pronounced like the English word "eye", not like the horse-food! Alcohol is pronounced "al-col" as if there were no `h' in the middle.  Don't forget that ch is a separate letter that cannot be split.  Ch has the same pronunciation in Spanish as it does in English.

5*K is a foreign letter and used only in words borrowed from other languages.

6*Q never occurs without u, so think of Qu as one letter. Qu is always pronounced like a `k'.  It never makes the `kw' sound as it does in English.  Try to visualize a K every time you see Qu.

7*Rr is spelled r when beginning a word: rojo [red], but is spelled rr when it occurs within a word: pelirrojo [redhead].

8*V is pronounced the same as B.  The names ve chica  and be grande  mean `little b' and `big b' respectively.  A common native speaker error is to switch these letters when writing.  Do not pronounce this letter like the English letter `v'.  Both V and B are pronounced like a softened version of the English letter `b'.

9*W is a foreign letter and used only in words borrowed from other languages.

10*Z occurs only in front of strong vowels (A, O, U.) The Z "time-shares" the vowels with C. C also has a soft "S" sound in front of the weak Vowels (I, E.) Therefore, when the Z is placed in a position where it is faced with a weak vowel, it changes into the letter C. (for example, we spell pencil "lápiz" but the plural form pencils needs to change the Z to C "lápices.")