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Pronouncing the U

Vowel Has Single, Pure Sound



Una familia de pingüinos. (A penguin family.)

Photo by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero; licensed via Creative Commons.

The Spanish u is a pure vowel sound formed by rounding the mouth, much like the pronunciation of the vowel sound of "suit" and "moon." It is a single sound; it should never be pronounced like the "u" in "cute" or like the "u" in "bus."

In the combinations ua, ue, ui and uo, the u typically forms a diphthong and is pronounced much like the "u" in "quest" and "quiz."

The exceptions:

  • When it follows the q, the u is silent. Thus it is not pronounced in words such as que (that, what) and químico (chemical).
  • It is also silent in the combinations gue and gui. Thus the u is not pronounced in words such as pague (a subjunctive form of pagar) and guisante (worm). If it is necessary to pronounce the u in such a combination, a diersesis or umlaut (a pair of dots) is placed over the u. Such words are fairly uncommon; among them is pingüino (penguin).

You can hear the u pronounced in our audio lesson on pronouncing the u. Words and phrases spoken by native speakers in the lesson are mucho, ¿cómo está usted? and buenos días.

Spanish Pronunciation
Pronouncing Specific Letters
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