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The Spanish Vowels

Do you know how many vowels are in the Spanish alphabet? Are you able to pronounce the Spanish vowels? Do you know what strong and weak vowels are? Have you seen Spanish vowels with accents? Let's get some answers to these questions and more!

 

How Many Vowels are in the Spanish Alphabet?

The short answer is five! The following are the five Spanish vowels:

 

a

e

i

o

u

 

Do you want to hear how to pronounce the vowels in Spanish? Let's listen to our friend Sol from GoSpanish.Com:

 

En español, tenemos cinco vocales: "a", "e", "i", "o", "u".

In Spanish, we have five vowels: "a," "e," "i," "o," "u."

Captions 2-7, Español para principiantes Las vocales

 Play Caption

 

Now that we know how many vowels there are in the Spanish alphabet and how to pronounce them, it is important to mention that these five vowels can be divided into two main groups. Let's take a closer look.

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Strong vs. Weak Spanish Vowels

 

1. Strong vowels

In Spanish, strong vowels are called vocales abiertas (literally "open vowels") because when you say them, your tongue stays in the lower part of your mouth, and the oral cavity must expand. These vowels are:

 

a

e

o

 

2. Weak vowels

On the contrary, weak vowels are known in Spanish as vocales cerradas ("closed vowels") because when you pronounce them, your tongue stays closer to the roof of your mouth, and the oral cavity need not expand. These vowels are:

 

i

u

 

Differentiating between strong and weak vowels will help you to improve your understanding of how to divide words into syllables. In fact, when doing so, we invite you to keep in mind the following basic rules:

 

* Strong vowel + strong vowel together = Two syllables

Una boa, una anaconda, ¡ay no!

A boa, an anaconda, oh, no!

Caption 49, Cleer y Lida Juego de preguntas y respuestas - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

The word boa has two syllables: bo-a.

 

* Weak vowel + unsetressed weak vowel together = One syllable

Detrás de mí podemos observar la ciudad antigua

Behind me, we can observe the old city

Caption 11, Ciudad de Panamá Denisse introduce la ciudad

 Play Caption

 

Notice how the i and the u of the word ciudad belong to the same syllable: ciu-dad.

 

* Strong vowel + unstressed weak vowel = one syllable

toda esa deuda acumulada

all that accumulated debt

Caption 10, Luis Guitarra Todo es de todos - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

Notice how the e and the u of the word deuda are both in the same syllable: deu-da.

 

Keep in mind, however, that when a stressed weak vowel is next to another type of vowel, the two vowels must be separated into two different syllables:

 

Y en invierno suele hacer mucho frío.

An in winter it tends to be very cold.

Caption 15, Clara explica El tiempo - Part 1

 Play Caption

 

The word frío has a stressed weak vowel next to a strong vowel. This combination creates a "hiatus," or break between two consecutive vowels that are not in the same syllable. For this reason, the word frío has two syllables: frí-o. Words like frío that contain accented vowels are quite common in Spanish. 

 

Finally, we would like to wrap up this lesson about the vowels in Spanish with a very simple question: Do you know any Spanish word that contains all of the five vowels? Although there are many, check out the following clip to see one of them in action:

 

La palabra más larga es murciélago. ¿Por qué? Pues porque tiene las cinco vocales dentro de la palabra.

The longest word is bat. Why? Well because it has the five vowels within the word.

Captions 43-45, Karla e Isabel Palabras

 Play Caption

 

And that's all for this lesson. We hope you've enjoyed learning about the Spanish vowels, and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!

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