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The Spanish Alphabet

The Spanish alphabet ("abecedario") is based on the Latin alphabet, plus the additional letter "ñ". Therefore, the alphabet consists of 27 letters as follows:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ñ, O, P,Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z

The letters "ch", "ll" and "rr" were included in the official Spanish alphabet until the 1994 reform by the Real Academia Española. The Academia has a centuries-long history. It was founded in 1713 and commenced work in orthography rules regulation in 1741. All Academia proposals were declared official by royal decree in 1844. The rules currently in effect are contained within the 1999 Ortografía.

Spanish has a two-gender system, which distinguishes masculine and feminine forms, and uses inflection to determine tense, mood, voice, aspect, person and number.

Spanish is a syllable-timed language. This means each syllable is given the same amount of time for pronunciation. Stressed syllables are treated in the same manner. They are not given more or less time to enunciate. Words ending with a vowel or "s" have the stress placed on the next-to-last syllable. Words ending in consonants (other than "s") are stressed on the last syllable. Phonetics can be determined from the spelling of words.

Spanish makes use of diacritics, or accents, to distinguish letters, words with the same spelling but different meaning and assist with pronunciation. The tilde (~) is placed over the "ñ" to differentiate it from "n". Acute accents (´) determine syllable stresses, pronunciation and meanings of words. The dieresis is placed over the "ü" when it is used in the combinations of "güe" and "güi" to indicate the "u" is not silent.

Inverted question and exclamations marks are placed at the beginning and with regular punctuation marks at the end of interrogative statements or questions (i.e. "What is your name?" is punctuated in Spanish as "¿cuál es su nombre?"). These punctuation marks distinguish between questions and statements, which are sometimes written with the exact same words.

The letters "k" and "w" are not found in native Spanish words. They exist only in loan words.

The letter "c" is pronounced as a "k" if it is followed by an "a", "o" or "u" and with an "s" sound if an "i" or "e" is next. A "g" followed by "a", "o" or "u" is pronounced as a "hard g", while a "g" followed by an "i" or "e" are articulated as a "soft g".

The letter "h" is always silent in Spanish. "Ch" is treated as one letter and the sound values are never divided. "Q" is always accompanied by a "u" and pronounced as a "k".

A word beginning with an "r" is always spelled with a singular "r". If the letter "r" is contained within the word, it is always spelled as a doubled consonant, "rr".

"V" is enunciated as a soft "b". The letter "z" is only placed in front of the vowels "a", "o" and "u". If a word ending with a "z" requires pluralizing and, consequently, the "z" is followed by an "i" or "e", the "z" changes to a "c" and is pronounced with an "s" sound.