"cocer" y "coser" | SpanishDict Answers
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Does the native Spanish speaker hear a difference in the pronunciation of these two words, "to cook" and "to sew'" I have listened carefully to the clips presented on Spanish.Dict.com and cannot hear any difference at all. The two sound like the same clip to my untrained ear.

  • Posted Sep 28, 2008
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16 Answers

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I believe that in most parts of America the S and the C before "e" and "i" have the same sound. In Spain, however, there is a clear difference, as the C sound like the TH in "thin" or "thunder", and the S as normal. This is an advantage in terms of spelling for us, but the majority of the Spanish natives don't make this difference.

For the sake of spelling, I advise learners to make this distinction too, but that's just my persona advice, of course. Changing the sound later from "th" to "s" is very easy, but doing it the other way around is very hard if you don't know how the word is written.

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The same problem exists with casar/cazar (marry/hunt), in Castilian Spanish they are pronounced differently but not in Latin America. The collapsing of the pronunciations of c/z/s is, perhaps, the major source of spelling mistakes made by Spanish speakers in the New World.

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lazarus1907 said:

I believe that in most parts of America the S and the C before "e" and "i" have the same sound. In Spain, however, there is a clear difference, as the C sound like the TH in "thin" or "thunder", and the S as normal. This is an advantage in terms of spelling for us, but the majority of the Spanish natives don't make this difference.

For the sake of spelling, I advise learners to make this distinction too, but that's just my persona advice, of course. Changing the sound later from "th" to "s" is very easy, but doing it the other way around is very hard if you don't know how the word is written.


Thank you. I suppose, then, that the clips were recorded by a Latin American Spanish speaker. With regard to your suggestion to learn the Spanish as spoken in Spain, I am doing that by virtue of the course I am following, which was produced in Europe, in Germany. In the tape in which I heard "coser" (no written document) the word was pronounced exactly as the clip, with the "s" sound. I have not yet heard the word "cocer" pronounced on my tape but now look forward to hearing it.

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samdie said:

The same problem exists with casar/cazar (marry/hunt), in Castilian Spanish they are pronounced differently but not in Latin America. The collapsing of the pronunciations of c/z/s is, perhaps, the major source of spelling mistakes made by Spanish speakers in the New World.


Ah, so I hear (your reply prompted me to look up and listen to those two clips, too....and now I have two new words: cazar y cacar. Thank you. Can you tell me which of the two will be pronounced in Spain as pronounced in the clip? And will the other take on the sound closer to our English "th'"

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Janice said:

Ah, so I hear (your reply prompted me to look up and listen to those two clips, too....and now I have two new words: cazar y cacar. Thank you. Can you tell me which of the two will be pronounced in Spain as pronounced in the clip? And will the other take on the sound closer to our English "th'"
First of all it's "casar" (to marry) (not "cacar")
"c" before "a"/"o"/"u" is pronounced like "k" by all Spanish speakers..
"z" (in all contexts) is pronounced the same as "c" before "e"/"i" which, as Lazarus pointed out, is like the "th" sound of "thin"/"think" (or the "thorn" [a letter] in Anglo-Saxon) for the people of Spain and like the "s" for the rest of the world (which includes, apparently, the speaker on your tapes).

P.S. For Latin American Spanish there is no sound resembling the "th" (of "thin"). And, to round out the discussion (and give you another pair of words). The verbs "cecear"/"sesear" are used to describe the act of pronouncing as do the Spaniards/the Latin Americans. There are other differences in their pronunciations but this far and away the most obvious one.

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samdie said:

The same problem exists with casar/cazar (marry/hunt), in Castilian Spanish they are pronounced differently but not in Latin America. The collapsing of the pronunciations of c/z/s is, perhaps, the major source of spelling mistakes made by Spanish speakers in the New World.

I am sure it was a little mistake, but the words are cazar and casar.

Me voy a cazar = I am going out hunting
Me voy a casar = I am going to get married

The joke is obvious if you consider that in many countries both sentences sound the same.

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samdie said:

Janice said:

Ah, so I hear (your reply prompted me to look up and listen to those two clips, too....and now I have two new words: cazar y cacar. Thank you. Can you tell me which of the two will be pronounced in Spain as pronounced in the clip? And will the other take on the sound closer to our English "th'"

First of all it's "casar" (to marry) (not "cacar")T

"c" before "a"/"o"/"u" is pronounced like "k" by all Spanish speakers..

"z" (in all contexts) is pronounced the same as "c" before "e"/"i" which, as Lazarus pointed out, is like the "th" sound of "thin"/"think" (or the "thorn" [a letter] in Anglo-Saxon) for the people of Spain and like the "s" for the rest of the world (which includes, apparently, the speaker on your tapes).

P.S. For Latin American Spanish there is no sound resembling the "th" (of "thin"). And, to round out the discussion (and give you another pair of words). The verbs "cecear"/"sesear" are used to describe the act of pronouncing as do the Spaniards/the Latin Americans. There are other differences in their pronunciations but this far and away the most obvious one.


Thank you very much for correcting my inattentive (really careless) mispelling of "to marry." And what an interesting way to round off the discussiongrin I listened to the two words, "cecear" and "sesear" in the clips on SpanishDict and again heard no difference.
I think, however, that the speaker I am listening to is Spanish. I looked up "cocer" in the index accompanying my CD's and found it on a fifth CD, "Eating and Drinking." Indeed, the speaker pronounces not only "cocer" with the sound you and lazarus 1907 describe, but also "concinar," (the second "c"), "cenar," "aceituna," and "cerveza" all of which I will now also add to my Spanish vocabulary!

Would you permit me another quick question, although not about Spanish? From the parenthetical note in your first reply - (the "thorn" [a letter] in Anglo-Saxon) - may I understand that there is a letter in a language called Anglo-Saxon which also sounds similar to the "th" in the English "thin"'? and that that letter is called "thorn" '

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Janice said:

Would you permit me another quick question, although not about Spanish? From the parenthetical note in your first reply - (the "thorn" [a letter] in Anglo-Saxon) - may I understand that there is a letter in a language called Anglo-Saxon which also sounds similar to the "th" in the English "thin"'? and that that letter is called "thorn" ?

The thorn is a letter used in the old Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic alphabet, written like a kind of P, but with the vertical stroke longer above the semicircle. These alphabets were, of course, based on the Roman alphabet, which was based on the Greek alphabet (and this on the Phoenician one). Its sound is that of TH in thin, and in the International Phonetic Alphabet is represented with the Greek theta. In peninsular Spanish (i.e. Spain) you get this sound with the letter Z, and the letter C when it appears before E or I. In some parts of the south of Spain, many speakers don't pronounce this TH sound (except in the school), and since all the first ships that departed from Sevilla (a city) to America five centuries ago after its "discovery" by Columbus, this is the normal pronunciation that exists in most parts of America nowadays.

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You won't believe this but on my way home a while ago, I was asking my self,why we, in Latin America did not use the th sound when pronuncing the z.

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Janice said: "Would you permit me another quick question, although not about Spanish? From the parenthetical note in your first reply - (the "thorn" [a letter] in Anglo-Saxon) - may I understand that there is a letter in a language called Anglo-Saxon which also sounds similar to the "th" in the English "thin"? and that that letter is called "thorn" '"

In the Anglo-Saxon (and quite probably Icelandic as well)
There were two different letters that in modern English are represented by the "th" combination. One is/was called the "thorn" which I've already mentioned the other called "eth" corresponds to the sound of "th" in "then"/"there" etc. The latter looked a bit like the "y" in modern English (and that's why you will sometimes see signs that say "Ye olde ... Shop". The "ye" should actually be pronounced just like the modern "the"; not like "yee"). In the transition from Anglo-Saxon to modern English, both letters came to be represented by "th" in writing but both pronunciations remain.

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Thank you all again for the very interesting replies regarding the pronunciation of the "c" and the "z.." My original query stemmed from the clips I heard of "cocer y coser" on SpanishDict.com. But I have also noticed in several pieces I have been listening to for "Comprensión auditiva" that the letter "s" is sometimes missing altogether from what I hear. As opposed to the case with "cocer y coser," I fully realize that this missing "s" is a matter of the particular speaker's pronunciation or regional accent. But of course I only find that the "s" is missing in these cases after I give up trying to succeed in the "comprensión" and resort to looking at the textgrin

In one brief interview with Matilde Urrutia, "la esposa de Pablo Neruda," I hear "vamos" with no "s" (nor am I sure that I hear even a quiet "th" after the "vamo") followed by a last sentence in which I read later that she has said "despertó más" - but again with no "s's." Nonetheless, the reader's speech is beautiful, and I suppose that after I hear her another 99 times, I will have memorized the passage with full "comprensión" regardless of the occasionally missing "s."

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The "s" is more complicated to explain because of the regional variations (that you mentioned). In standard peninsular Spanish the "s" sounds pretty much like it does in English. (The one exception being "s" before the trilled "r" e..g. los romanos or las ruedas in, which case, the "s" sound is omitted [basically because it's too hard to get the tongue to produce both sounds in succession without making a definite pause]).

In Latin America the "s" can range from "normal" to an aspiration to inaudible. This is mostly a regional thing but can also vary with the individual. Since Neruda was from Chile I expect that his wife was too and, as a result would probably use a simple aspiration in place of the "s".

There's no such thing as a "quiet 'th'". In Spain the "th" sound is pronounced quite distinctly and in Latin America it isn't said/used at all. In addition the "th" sound has nothing to do with the letter "s" (or the pronunciation of the "s") it is only relevant to discussions about how "z"/"c" are pronounced in Spain.

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samdie wrote:
In Latin America the "s" can range from "normal" to an aspiration to inaudible. This is mostly a regional thing but can also vary with the individual. Since Neruda was from Chile I expect that his wife was too and, as a result would probably use a simple aspiration in place of the "s".

I had some trouble understanding the locals during my time in Chile. I remember one time chatting with a man, and I was following along very nicely until he threw in the word dobece. My mind was racing, trying to remember what it meant or figure out the meaning from the context. It probably took me 15 seconds or more to realize that he had said "dos veces," by which time I was hopelessly lost in the conversation.

Incidentally, anyone visiting Chile must try the other national drink: fanshop (pronounced more like fanchop). It is a mixture of beer and Fanta orange, and tastes exactly how it sounds. The "shop" part comes from German, I believe.

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samdie said:

The "s" is more complicated to explain because of the regional variations (that you mentioned). In standard peninsular Spanish the "s" sounds pretty much like it does in English. (The one exception being "s" before the trilled "r" e..g. los romanos or las ruedas in, which case, the "s" sound is omitted [basically because it's too hard to get the tongue to produce both sounds in succession without making a definite pause]).

In Latin America the "s" can range from "normal" to an aspiration to inaudible. This is mostly a regional thing but can also vary with the individual. Since Neruda was from Chile I expect that his wife was too and, as a result would probably use a simple aspiration in place of the "s".

There's no such thing as a "quiet 'th'". In Spain the "th" sound is pronounced quite distinctly and in Latin America it isn't said/used at all. In addition the "th" sound has nothing to do with the letter "s" (or the pronunciation of the "s") it is only relevant to discussions about how "z"/"c" are pronounced in Spain.


Again, thank you for another new vocabulary word related to pronunciation, albeit this time an English word: "aspiration" - I think that I was trying to express just that almost inaudible sound I hear the reader in the role of Pablo Neruda's wife utter by describing a very, very soft "th"grin My description wasn't so good, I guess, but now I know a real word for what I wanted to say.
You were right to assume that Matilde Urrutia was Chilean. I read that she was of Basque descent.

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James Santiago said:

samdie wrote: In Latin America the "s" can range from "normal" to an aspiration to inaudible. This is mostly a regional thing but can also vary with the individual. Since Neruda was from Chile I expect that his wife was too and, as a result would probably use a simple aspiration in place of the "s". I had some trouble understanding the locals during my time in Chile. I remember one time chatting with a man, and I was following along very nicely until he threw in the word dobece. My mind was racing, trying to remember what it meant or figure out the meaning from the context. It probably took me 15 seconds or more to realize that he had said "dos veces," by which time I was hopelessly lost in the conversation.

Incidentally, anyone visiting Chile must try the other national drink: fanshop (pronounced more like fanchop). It is a mixture of beer and Fanta orange, and tastes exactly how it sounds. The "shop" part comes from German, I believe.

I forgot to add in my reply: "der (="el") Schoppen" is German for a half pint. I didn't really know this but remembered hearing a good friend in Dresden order a "Schoppen" of wine. Your post prompted me to look up and find out that she will have been ordering a "quantity."

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