Spanish Spelling With B and V: Word List, Verbs, and Pronunciation
How would you pronounce the following Spanish words: barón (baron) and varón (male)?
Did you make them sound different?
Well, you shouldn’t have.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! English speakers tend to have problems with the pronunciation of the Spanish b and v. First, because these two letters have the same sound in Spanish. Second, because depending on their position in a word, this sound may change.
Mastering the usage of b and v in Spanish will get you closer to the native pronunciation.
Let me help you today with these Spanish sounds.
I will show you how to pronounce them according to their position, and you’ll hear Spanish words pronounced to be able to practice yourself.
Table of Contents:
- What’s the Difference Between B and V in Spanish?
- B and V – Letter Names
- Pronunciation of B and V
- B and V – Common Homophones
- List of B and V Verbs
- Practice B vs V in Spanish
What’s the Difference Between B and V in Spanish?
According to this tweet by the Royal Spanish Academy, the letters b and v are pronounced identically (with a bilabial [b] sound) in Spanish. The pronunciation of the v as labiodental (supporting the front upper teeth on the lower lip) is not typical of this language.
The Panhispanic Dictionary of Doubt clarifies the issue even more. These two letters used to have different sounds in Latin. Spanish maintained this orthographical distinction but simplified the pronunciation. If you read texts in medieval Spanish, you’ll notice lots of confusion between the two spellings, which proves the already nonexistent difference in pronunciation.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, orthography and grammar manuals started to recommend the pronunciation of the v as labiodental, as French and English were of much influence at that time, but in 1911 the Academy stopped explicitly recommending the distinction.
Now there is no oral difference between words such as baca and vaca (roof rack and cow), bello and vello (beautiful and body hair), and sabia or savia (sage and sap).
If you listen to Spanish people from Mallorca, Valencia, and Catalunya, you hear the distinction due to the influence of their regional languages. Also, in some parts of America, a similar phenomenon occurs due to the influence of the indigenous languages.
B and V – Letter Names
What happens if you want to spell a word to another person to clarify if it’s written with v or b? Do these letters have the same name?
According to RAE, the correct name for the letter b in Spanish is be pronounced as /vay/ and the letter v in Spanish alphabet is named uve pronounced as /oo-vay/.
The Spanish bank BBVA is pronounced as /be-be-uve-a/.
However, in Latin America these letters are called respectively be and ve which, as you might guess, leads to identical pronunciation. So to avoid confusion, the Spanish speakers in Latin America tend to add specific adjectives to distinguish them.
The letter v can be named:
- ve corta (short)
- ve chica (small)
- ve chiquita (very small)
- ve pequeña (small)
- ve baja (short)
- ve de vaca (vaca means cow, this name gives an example of the common word spelled with this letter)
The letter b is often called:
- be larga (long)
- be grande (big)
- be alta (tall)
- be de burro (burro means donkey, this name gives an example of the common word spelled with this letter)
Pronunciation of B and V
Pronunciation of some Spanish letters vary according to their position in a word. The different possible pronunciations are called allophones.
The letters b and v in Spanish have two allophones meaning that there are two ways to pronounce them according to their position. They can be pronounced as [b] or [β],
Plosive/Hard b and v – [b]
B and V are pronounced as [b] if
1. the word that starts with the letter b or v is spoken in isolation
2. it is in a group of words but pronounced after a pause
3. it is pronounced after a nasal consonant m or n
- bandera [‘ban.de.ra] – flag
- ambos [‘am.bos] – both
- envía [‘em.bía] – sends
Approximant/Soft b and v – [β]
Letters b and v are always pronounced as [β] if they are between two vowels.
- sabe [‘sa.βe] – knows
- lava [l’a.βa] – lava
Hear the differences in sound
B and V – Common Homophones
Palabras homófonas españolas (Spanish homophones) are words that sound the same, but they’re spelled differently and have different meanings
As b and v are pronounced the same, they create many homophones.
Spanish Homophones Chart with B and V
Recommended reading: A List of Spanish Homophones.
List of B and V Verbs
Let’s see some common verbs that start with b and v so that you avoid spelling them wrong. Click the audio file below to hear the following list of Spanish words pronounced.
Spanish Verbs with B
1. bailar – to dance
2. bajar – to lower, go down, descend, download
3. bañar – to bathe (someone)
4. barajar – to shuffle, to discuss
5. barnizar – to varnish, to glaze
6. barrer – to sweep
7. bastar – to suffice
8. batallar – to battle, to fight
9. batear – to bat
10. batir – to beat, hammer, pound (on)
11. bautizar – to baptize, christen
12. beatificar – to beatify
13. beber – to drink
14. becar – to give a scholarship
15. bendecir – to bless, foretell, forecast
16. beneficiar – to benefit, to profit
17. besar – to kiss
18. besuquear – to kiss repeatedly
19. bifurcar – to branch
20. blanquear – to bleach, to whitewash
21. blasfemar – to blaspheme
22. bloquear – to blockade
23. bobinar – to wind
24. boicotear – to boycott
25. bombardear – to bomb
26. bonificar – to subsidize, to award a bonus/discount
27. bordar – to embroider
28. bordear – to go around, to skirt
29. borrar – to erase, to cross out
30. bosquejar – to sketch
31. bostezar – to yawn
32. botar – to fling, to launch, to bounce
54. boxear – to box
56. bramar – to roar
58. brillar – to shine, sparkle, glitter, gleam
59. brincar – to jump, to frolic
60. brindar – to toast (someone)
61. bromear – to joke
62. broncear – to get a tan, to get a suntan, to bronze
63. brotar – to sprout, to come out, to rise
66. brutalizar – to brutalize
67. bucear – to dive underwater, to dive
68. bufar – to snort
69. bufonear – to joke, to jest
71. bullir – to boil
72. burbujear – to bubble
74. burlar – to deceive, trick, to seduce
75. buscar – to search for, look for
Spanish Verbs with V
1. vacar – to fall vacant, to be left vacant
2. vaciar – to empty
3. vacilar – to hesitate
4. vacunar – to vaccinate
5. vagabundear – to roam, to idle
6. vagar – to roam, to wander
7. valer – to be worth
8. validar – to validate
9. valorar – to value
10. valorizar – to value, to fix the price
11. variar – to vary
12. vedar – to prohibit, to forbid
13. vegetar – to grow, to vegetate
14. velar – to watch, to keep a vigil over
15. vencer – to conquer, defeat, overcome
16. vendar – to bandage
17. vender – to sell
18. venerar – to revere, to worship
19. vengar – to avenge, to take revenge
20. venir – to come
21. ventilar – to ventilate
22. ver – to see
23. veranear – to spend the summer
24. verificar – to verify, check, inspect
25. versificar – to versify
26. verter – to spill
27. vestir – to dress (someone)
28. vetar – to veto
29. viajar – to travel, journey
30. vibrar – to vibrate
31. vigilar – to watch, to guard, to invigilate
32. vigorizar – to invigorate
33. vincular – to link
34. vindicar – to vindicate
35. violar – to violate, to rape
36. violentar – to force
37. virar – to tack, to turn round
38. visitar – to visit
39. vislumbrar – to glimpse, to see
40. visualizar – to see, to make out, to discern
41. vitorear – to cheer
42. vituperar – to scold, to condemn
43. vivificar – to revitalize
44. vivir – to live
45. vocalizar – to vocalize
46. vociferar – to shout, to yell
47. volar – to fly
48. voltear – to turn over, to knock down
49. volver – to return, go back
50. vomitar – to vomit, throw up, bring up
51. vosear – to address a person using the vos form
52. votar – to vote
53. vulcanizar – to vulcanize
54. vulgarizar – to vulgarize
55. vulnerar – to infringe, to violate
To learn more about Spanish verbs, check out the following:
- 38 Regular IR and ER Verbs in Spanish You Can Master Today
- Learn 15 Spanish Verbs for Easier Beginner Conversations [with Audio]
Practice B vs V in Spanish
Now that you’ve learned about these important Spanish letters, it’s important to keep practicing. Only this way, you’ll be able to reach the fluent level and become truly bilingual.
Bilingual people have more job opportunities! Check out this article by Indeed about all the possibilities you’ll have after adding another language to your resume.
Don’t forget to read World’s Most Complete Spanish Pronunciation Guide [with Example Audio] to learn more about Spanish pronunciation.
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