Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Teaching Spanish pronunciation
Teaching Spanish pronunciation

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3 Consonants

In the production of consonants, articulatory organs are moved in such a way that they make contact or produce a constriction. 

Main articulators used in the production of Spanish speech sounds. (Hualde 2005, 42)
Main articulators used in the production of Spanish speech sounds. (Hualde 2005, 42)

Manner of articulation

The manner of articulation refers to the type of obstruction that is created during the articulation of the consonant. The following classes are distinguished (the phonetic symbols used in this course are those of the International Phonetic Alphabet):

Stops (plosives): The airflow is stopped completely before the consonant is released, as in /p/ pata (leg) or /d/ doy (I give). See Week 5 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  for a detailed description of all the Spanish consonants.    

Fricatives: During the production of fricative consonants, air leaks through a narrow constriction between the articulators producing turbulent noise, e.g. /f/ or /s/ as in fonética (phonetics) or sapo (toad).

Affricates: The articulation of these consonants includes two phases: first, the flow of air is blocked just like in stops, but instead of an abrupt release, the second phase consists of a fricative-like release. The only affricate in Spanish is /tʃ͡/ as in chico (boy).       

Nasals: Nasals are similar to stops in that they are produced with a complete closure in the oral cavity, however, they differ from stops in that air can flow freely through the nasal cavity. This is achieved by lowering the velum. The only difference between the following three Spanish words – cam(bed), can(grey hair) and cañ(cane) – is the place of articulation of the nasals. 

Liquids: The articulators are positioned in such a way that airflow is obstructed without causing friction. Liquids are further classified into laterals and rhotics. 

Laterals: In the production of these consonants, contact is made along the central axis of the mouth, allowing the flow of air through the sides, as in lado (side).

Rhotics: These sounds are produced with one or more quick contacts of the tip of the tongue against the alveolar region. Spanish has a tap (vibrante simple) as in car(expensive) and a trill (vibrante múltiple) as in carr(cart). 

Approximants: In the case of approximant consonants, the articulators approach each other but neither touch nor make a narrow enough constriction to produce turbulence. Spanish /b d g/ in certain positions – mostly between vowels – are pronounced as approximants [β ð ɣ], e.g. lad(side).

Activity 3

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes.
  • a.What’s the difference in the articulation of the words bar and mar?
  • b.What’s the difference in the articulation of the first sounds of jabón and carbón?
  • c.What’s the difference in the articulation of the first and second /d/ of dedo?


  • a./b/ is a plosive, the flow of air is completely blocked for a moment in its production and then released with a burst, while /m/ is also produced with lip closure, but the flow of air is uninterrupted through the nose.
  • b.They are produced in the same place, but jabón starts with a fricative /x/ while carbón starts with a plosive /k/.
  • c.The first /d/ of dedo is a stop, while the second is an approximant consonant.