Grammar Guide
Language Basics
How to Pronounce "R" in Spanish

How to Pronounce "R" in Spanish

Quick Answer

Spanish has two r sounds:

• Simple r like in pero (but) and caro (expensive)

• Rolled r like in perro (dog) and carro (car)

Learning how to pronounce the simple and rolled r sounds of Spanish is important because some Spanish words are exactly the same except for the type of r they contain!

For example, the word pairs above (pero and perro) and (caro and carro) differ only in that the first word in each pair has a simple r, while the other has a rolled r. Keep reading to find more about how to pronounce the Spanish r!

The Simple R Sound in Spanish

The fancy name for the simple r in Spanish is alveolar tap (vibrante simple or ere in Spanish).

Pronunciation Tips for the Simple R

To pronounce the Spanish alveolar tap, you touch the tip of your tongue to your hard palate once. Your hard palate is essentially the roof of your mouth - if you run your tongue over the area behind your front teeth with your tongue, you should feel a little bump. This little bump is called the alveolar ridge and is where the roof of your mouth, or hard palate, begins. To pronounce the Spanish simple r, you touch your tongue to the area just behind the alveolar ridge.

The Spanish alveolar tap is actually very similar to the sound most American speakers use to pronounce the t in words like water and hater!

You use the alveolar tap to pronounce the single written letter r when it occurs:

  • between two vowels, like in aro (hoop) and para (for),
  • when preceded by a consonant other than l, n, or s, like in brazo (arm), and presente (present),
  • at the end of a word, like in amar (to love) or vivir (to live).

Some Spanish speakers pronounce the r at the end of a word as a simple alveolar tap, while others roll it! Both pronunciations are correct, so whether you pronounce the r in amar as a simple alveolar tap or as a rolled trill, you're saying it right!

Here are examples of common words containing the simple r, or alveolar tap, in Spanish!

SpanishEnglish
arco
bow
brazo
arm
alacrán
scorpion
drama
drama
era
era
francés
French
gripa
flu
ira
anger
oro
gold
primo
cousin
teatro
theater
Uruguay
Uruguay

The Rolled R Sound in Spanish

The fancy name for the rolled r in Spanish is trill (vibrante multiple or errein Spanish).

Pronunciation Tips for the Rolled R

To pronounce the Spanish trill, you quickly touch the tip of your tongue to your hard palate more than once. This multiple tapping motion is where the term rolling your r's comes from - the multiple taps of the tongue against the roof of the mouth make it feel you're rolling your tongue around!

Many speakers of Scottish English roll their r's in words like car and girl!

You use the trill, or rolled r, to pronounce words containing two written letter r's (like in carro) or the single written letter r when it occurs:

  • at the beginning of a word, like in rojo (red) or Raquel (Rachel),
  • when preceded by the consonants l, n, or s, like in alrededor (around), enredar (to tangle), and Israel (Israel),
  • at the end of a word, like in amar (to love) or vivir (to love). (Remember that some speakers will pronounce this sound with a simple r).

Here are examples of common words containing the rolled r, or trill, in Spanish!

SpanishEnglish
rana
frog
recordar
to remember
rosa
pink
risa
laugh
rubio
blond
alrededor
around
alrededores
outskirts
enredar
to tangle
sonrojar
to cause to blush
Israel
Israel
abarrotes
groceries
abejorro
bumblebee
acorralar
to corner
acurrucarse
to snuggle up
barrio
neighborhood
carril
lane
extracurricular
extracurricular
hierro
iron
irreal
unreal
jarro
jug
modorro
sleepy
perro
dog
sarro
plaque
tierra
land
torre
tower
virrey
viceroy
zorrillo
skunk
zorro
fox