Spanish Vowels

Overview

Spanish vowels are very easy to pronounce. There are only 5 distinct vowel phonemes (sounds) in Spanish and they are each only pronounced one way. English has the same 5 written vowels, but they are pronounced many different ways depending on context and word origin. Below, you will find each of the Spanish vowel phonemes, a pronunciation guide for each, and examples words.

Vowel Pronunciation

In general, Spanish vowels are shorter (in duration) than English vowels. Take the letter o. When you say the letter o in English, you tend to stretch it out and add a bit of of an uh sound at the end. In Spanish, o is much shorter and is pronounced with rounded lips from start to finish. You’ll sound much more native in Spanish if you try to keep your vowels shorter and purer (like the vowels you would use in choral music) than in spoken English.

Spanish Vowel Sounds

Spanish PhonemePronunciationExample Words
/a/
ah
 
papa , agua 
/e/
eh
 
esperanza , bebe 
/i/
ee
 
 , chica 
/o/
oh
 
loco , bonito 
/u/
oo
 
grupo , futuro 

Diphthongs

Now that you know the 5 basic vowel sounds, you can sound out any combination. When you see two vowels next to each other, one strong (a, e, o) and one weak (i, u) or two weak vowels, all you have to do is combine the two vowels you see into one syllable; this is called a diphthong. To practice pronouncing a diphthong, make the sound for the first vowel, and then the second one. Then repeat faster and faster until it sounds like one syllable.

Spanish Diphthong Pronunciation

Written DiphthongPhonemesExamples
au
 
/a/ + /u/aula , aunque 
ai , ay /a/ + /i/aire , hay 
eu
 
/e/ + /u/Europa , neutro 
ei , ey /e/ + /i/reina , rey 
ia
 
/i/ + /a/piano , hacia 
ie
 
/i/ + /e/tierra , serpiente 
io
 
/i/ + /o/radio , unión 
iu
 
/i/ + /u/viuda , ciudad 
oi , oy /o/ + /i/boina , hoy 
ua
 
/u/ + /a/agua , cuadro 
ue
 
/u/ + /e/fuego , trueno 
ui
 
/u/ + /i/fuimos , fuiste 
uo
 
/u/ + /o/cuota , individuo 

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