7 Vote

I am just trying to learn Spanish. I am confused about the pronunciation of Vs. If I say veinte, do I say ven-tae or ben-tae? Thank you.

  • b is said like ber; V is said like b; so you say ben-tae - lyndac24 Oct 28, 2009 flag

24 Answers

10 Vote

However I learned from Puerto Ricans and Ecuadorians who emphasized that there is a difference

Consult any pronunciation guide written by Spanish speakers and they will tell you that there is (and shouldn't be) any distinction between the pronunciations of the two letters. Notice among the "less educated Spanish speakers" (from all countries) the frequent confusion (in writing) between the two letters. The explanation is quite simple; they are pronounced the same and when it's necessary to write them, one chooses (not on the basis of pronunciation) but of some ill-remembered rules.

Please supply, if you can, a citation of any credible article that has been published (mostly meant to exclude an email from some friend) which documents a dialect of Spanish (whatever the region) that makes a consistent b/v distinction.

  • I must agree with Samdie on this one. There is no difference. - --Mariana-- Oct 27, 2009 flag
  • Agreed. His comment challanged me to understand this once and for all. See my new comment. Thanks Samdie. I LOVE this site! - chaparrito Oct 27, 2009 flag
  • I have never been able to get a clear answer from any native speaker of Spanish about Bs and Vs - ian-hill Oct 28, 2009 flag
  • I am learning spanish at Uni now and the teacher is from Peru. There is no difference. - abijay Nov 1, 2009 flag
5 Vote

What the Spanish teachers (from Spain) said was that there is a difference between V and B-

Not according the the RAE and any other serious discussion of the sounds in Spanish.

You are confusing several different issues. 1) There are two different (but similar) sounds in Spanish Both sounds are associated with both b & v (which sound is used in any given word depends on the rest of the word (the phonetic environment) but does not depend on whether the word is written with a "b" or a "v". As mentioned before, this is why many poor spellers make mistakes involving the b & v. For the same reason people who uses the seseo are more prone to make spelling mistakes involving c/z/s (because they pronounce them all the same).

2) The other issue is that the two Spanish sounds do not exist in English (although one of the sounds is close to the English sound for "b"). English speakers listening to Spanish tend to mis-hear the sounds (when one hears an "unusual" sound in a foreign language, there is a natural tendency to try to interpret the sound as something familiar). Put another way, your ears are "prejudiced" by your native language. Some people are less prejudiced than the majority (or can "overcome" their prejudice) but others can't/don't.

A well known example of this (based on English sounds) is the l / r distinction that gives so much trouble to the Japanese, Koreans and Cantonese speakers. A small number can hear/make the distinction but for the vast majority, you can say "rock" and "lock" 'til you're blue in the face and they will say "They sound the same to me."

  • Interesting point, we will try and put it in terms of our own language, even if it's horrifically foreign. Due to the very different nature of Russias sounds, it is extremely for Russian people to speak with a completely English accent.. - nickpunx Oct 28, 2009 flag
  • I will never forget about a Japanese lady I once heard in a post office asking about "the big Lock" and we were all giving her blank stares. Then she mentioned faces on the big Lock, & I - remembering the L/R thing - said, "Oh, you mean Mt. Rushmore." - webdunce Oct 28, 2009 flag
  • That was a great answer, but could you tell us more about the two sounds the b/v makes and when to make which sound? - RiCrow Jan 25, 2012 flag
5 Vote

I would just like to clarify one thing, that is doubtless leading to a great deal of confusion, and which was hinted at above. There are two different pronunciations for both B and V, but they overlap. I'll explain: At the start of a word, either a 'B' or a 'V' will be pronounced hard, what is called a biliabial, '/b/' sound. HOWEVER, in the middle of a word, either one will be pronounced softer, somewhere between a /v/ and a /w/ - just think of the phrase 'por favor' - when have you ever heard anyone say 'por fabor'? So in short, two letters, two pronunciations - unfortunately its the same two pronunciations each!

4 Vote

Please supply, if you can, a citation of any credible article that has been published (mostly meant to exclude an email from some friend) which documents a dialect of Spanish (whatever the region) that makes a consistent b/v distinction.

Well this got my curiosity up so I tried! And I stand corrected. I read several forums and on-line guides. The best one is at this webpage. This treatise of the B/V pronunciation is totally enlightening.

Here are just two excerpts:

"El fonema /b/ se representa en la escritura por b o v: caballo, robo, libro, vida, servir, leve. Es un error todavía extendido suponer que estas dos letras responden, como en otros idiomas, a dos fonemas diferentes" (Manuel Seco, Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua española, 10ª edición revisada [Madrid: Espasa, 1998])."

"Remember only this: The graphemes b and v are avsolutely, positibely IDENTICAL IN SPANISH PRONUNCIATION, no matter where they occur. Period. No exceptions. No funny stuff. But you will hear increasing phonetic differentiation between b (always a bilabial) and v (incorrectly, as a labiodental) the closer you get to certain bilingual populations, for example, along the U.S.-Mexico border, simply as a matter of phonetic cross-pollination, because the b and the v on the English-speaking side are bery different, as pointed out already avobe (or, if you prefer, "above"). And gibben the sheer inbasive force of the English language all obber the world, I predict that this differentiation is likely to increase measuravly obber time."

If you have not already read the entire webpage from where these two excerpts came then you really should. (Even if you already know the answer. It is quality writing for it's own sake!).

And I'm going to pass this on to my instructors (and friends) who apparently have been tainted by their proximity to los Estados Unidos! wink

Thank you Samdie for pushing the issue to make the lesson clear! smile

4 Vote

t sounds like talking in circles, although that wasn't the intent. confused Would that be a fair way to sum it up to an English speaking person learning Spanish

Yes, chaparrito: there is no difference between b and v...that is itwink

Not joking, there simply is no difference. I am having a hard time teaching the children that there is a notable difference between b and v in English...they pronounce the letters the same,

book is b/vook

More important: best and vest are the samewink

  • I'll put on my best vest tonight. - webdunce Nov 1, 2009 flag
  • lol - 00494d19 Nov 1, 2009 flag
  • And I'll try to do my vest here on SpanishDict ;)) - Issabela Nov 1, 2009 flag
  • To do my best. Don't you think? - nila45 Dec 3, 2009 flag
3 Vote

It depends on the country. I speak mostly with Mexicans and for them the V and B are almost indistinguishable and sound more like the English letter "B". In fact if one of my friends is spelling something out loud for me, he will often say "B grande" which is B or "B chica" which is V. However I learned from Puerto Ricans and Ecuadorians who emphasized that there is a difference.

3 Vote

I have heard it is regional and differs. I was taught a kind of B-like V - I'm almost saying ben-tae. I put my teeth on my lower lip like I am going to say "V", then try to say "B" using softer lips and a bit more air; (when I'm at the top of my game anyway, which is not often!)

3 Vote

Either the Vee or Bee sound will be understood. Speaking for myself, I adopt a form of speaking, in this case the b-sound for veinte, and stick with it. It becomes my characteristicly personal and perfectly acceptable way of speaking. In 99 % of cases, I am perfectly understood. Although, often my dialect instigates the," Where are you from? question." This is good though, because it prolongs the conversation even further. Sorry for the lengthy reply.

  • It sounds as though you are saying that a variety of pronunciations are acceptable as long as the listener understands you. I agree. Of course, if you want to be seen as intelligent you should adopt the pronunciation the experts recommend. - RiCrow Jan 25, 2012 flag
3 Vote

This was just posted on another thread, excellent pronounciation, I checked it. wink


  • Heidita, I love this, what a great resource. Your costume is adorable as well. - Zeb_Spanish Nov 1, 2009 flag
  • I'd love to listen to this resource. - Fidalguinho- Jan 17, 2010 flag
2 Vote

What the Spanish teachers (from Spain) said was that there is a difference between V and B- in which they are pronounced as they would in English.

Lhexin, I was taught that also, but have not been able to find a credible reference work that states it that way. I assumed my instructors were correct since they were the ones doing the teaching, but the only written information they had was a hand-out they gave to us.

(I do agree with you about learning to write properly. For me, having thought there was a difference in pronunciation has helped me in this sense.)

Could you provide a reference that confirms what your Profesores de España have told you? Thanks!

2 Vote

Can any Spanish person hear the difference when hearing Barcelona and Valencia?

  • No - RicardoP Oct 28, 2009 flag
  • Assuming that you mean the initial consonant; no, because there is no difference. - samdie Oct 28, 2009 flag
  • NO Ian, there is no difference and if a difference is made, the pronounciation is not correct - 00494d19 Oct 28, 2009 flag
2 Vote

I really don't know why I am still posting on this thread.......

Melanor: trust me, you do not, NOT, pronounce the b and the v differently.

Ok, last post for me on this topicwink I think I have repeated myself like an idiot.

  • Then I´ll ignore Paralee´s own pronunciation of b and v differently. - Malenor Nov 1, 2009 flag
  • Thank you, Heidita, for your patience. I think I was able to filter out of this lengthy conversation an answer that makes sense. ;-) - chaparrito Nov 1, 2009 flag
  • Oh, I am glad chaparrito , I finally convinced somebody, thank you:) - 00494d19 Nov 3, 2009 flag
1 Vote

I also speak mostly with Mexicans, but I mostly hear it more like an English "V" !!! wink

1 Vote

In some, I have heard a bit of a w-ness to it as well. One lady, for instance, said the English word river and it sounded like /ree-wer/. Others it always is a b-ish sound. Others, it is a soft v. Some speakers I feel like I hear a slight difference between the V/B at the beginning of a word and V/B in the middle of a word (or between vowels or whatever).

As a side note, I have definitely heard some Britons pronounce th as v. Mother is pronounced muh-ver, either is pronounced ee-ver. These same people will pronounce th as f at the end of words...that is, mouth becomes mowf...quite neat really.

As an English speaker, the v and f sounds are very related. Of fat, vat, and bat...bat sounds more different than the other two. Vat and fat sound almost the same. It's almost like the difference between our voiced th (as in "the") and our voiceless th (as in "thin").

I'm a-rambling now.

  • I decided to pronounce Vs like V and Bs like B...and I doubt many Spanish speakers will really care. - webdunce Oct 27, 2009 flag
1 Vote

I am taking Spanish from University.

We have a Spanish department and I clarified this issue with them. What the Spanish teachers (from Spain) said was that there is a difference between V and B- in which they are pronounced as they would in English. However, quite a lot of Spanish speakers do not differentiate them but in general, if you are learning the language, you should learn it the correct way mainly so you will be able to write the words properly

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