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.
Note: all Spanish letters are feminine:
Use the feminine definite article "la" to say "the a"or "the b":
- la a, la be grande, la jota, la doble ve...etc.
- When you are spelling aloud a word in which a letter carries an accent, say "con acento" after saying the name of the vowel.
For example: Policía:
pe-o-ele-ce-i con acento-a
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.
|b||be grande/be larga||bomba||bomb|
|e||e||español||-- pronounced like the "e" in `egg'.|
--pronounced like the English letter "h"
|4* h||hache||honor||honor (the letter "h" is always silent)|
|j||jota||justicia [justice]||--pronounced like the English letter "h"|
|ll||elle||llave [key]||--pronounced like the English letter "y", as in "yahoo"|
|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'|
|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|
|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.")