How to Pronounce "B" and "V" in Spanish

Quick Answer
  • The letter b in Spanish is pronounced much like the b in the English words book, February, or cub.
  • The letter v in Spanish is not pronounced like the English letter v. Instead, it’s pronounced just like the Spanish b!

B and V in Spanish

Most Spanish speakers pronounce the letters b and v the same way: much like the b in the English word book. It's important to note that the pronunciation of the letters b and v is slightly different depending on their position in a word. Native speakers of Spanish pronounce these two letters:

  • Like the b in the English word book if they appear:

    • at the beginning of a word followed by a vowel, as in bala(bullet) or vaca(cow);
    • at the beginning of a word followed by a consonant, as in brazo(arm) or blanco(white);
    • at the end of a word, as in club(club) or leitmotiv(leitmotiv);
    • after an m or an n sound, as in hombre(man) or enviar(send).
  • Like the b in the English word book, but separating the lips slightly, if they appear:

    • between vowels, as in cabeza(head) or ave(bird);
    • inside a word followed or preceded by a consonant other than m or n, as in hablar(speak) or hervir(boil).

Compare the pronunciations of bota and robo to appreciate the difference between the pronunciation of b at the beginning of a word and b between vowels.

Note that the letter v in Spanish words is never followed by a consonant. Note also that very few words end in b or v; they’re mostly loan words, that is, words that come from languages other than Spanish, such as kebab(kebab), hiyab(hijab), or molotov(Molotov).

Blame It on Latin

You may be wondering why Spanish needs two letters that are pronounced the same way. Well, you can blame it on Latin! Let’s get into a little bit of historical linguistics...the letters b and v did have different sounds in Latin, the language spoken by the ancient Romans that Spanish comes from. Early Spanish maintained the pronunciation difference from Latin, but lost it at some point on its linguistic journey to the Spanish spoken today. Although the written letters b and v remained in the language, speakers no longer distinguish between them in spoken Spanish. This makes it hard to predict how a Spanish word with this sound is written, but there are a few spelling tips you can follow. Read on for more!

Spelling Tips

Write a word with a b (not a v) in...

TipExamplesExceptions
Words containing the sound b preceded by the letter mbomba(bomb), sombra(shadow)
Words containing the sound b followed by a consonantcabra(goat), amable(kind), temblar(shake)ovni(UFO)
All the imperfect tense endings of regular -ar verbshablábamos(we were speaking), temblaban(they were shaking)
All verbs ending in -birescribir(write), subir(go up)hervir(boil), servir(serve), vivir(live)
Words beginning with the prefixes bi-(bi-), bio-(bio-), and sub-(sub-)bisexual(bisexual), biología(biology), submarino(submarine)

Write a word with a v (not a b) in...

TipExamplesExceptions
Words containing the sound b preceded by the letters b or dobvio(obvious), adverbio(adverb)
Words containing the sound b preceded by olvolver(return), polvo(dust)
Words beginning with ll followed by a vowelllave(key), llevar(take), llover(rain), lluvioso(rainy)
Words beginning with the syllable di-diva(diva), divino(divine), divertirse(have fun)
Words beginning with the prefix vice-(vice-)vicepresidente(vice-president)

Want to learn more about Spanish pronunciation? Check out the following articles!

How to Pronounce "C" and "Z" in Spanish

How to Pronounce the Letter "R" in Spanish

Spanish Word Stress

Spanish Alphabet Pronunciation

Spanish Vowels