Lock in our old prices!
Your last chance to upgrade at these rates »

Spelling: b or v

Ortografía: "b" o "v"

Native Spanish speakers don't struggle much with spelling because Spanish is a mainly phonetic language: it's pronounced the way it's written. Each letter has a specific sound, so it's relatively easy to write the words when you hear them. 

However one of the difficulties for Spanish language learners and even Spanish-speakers is knowing when to write a word with the letter b or v - why? Because both are pronounced the same way: they both sound like b. Listen to these examples:

vacacionesholidays

bonitopretty

Be very careful not to write "bacaciones", for example.

There are a number of rules that let you know whether you need a b or a v in a word. Let's see the rules for each letter.

Which Spanish words are written with "b"?

  • The infinitives that end in -bir and all their forms (except for hervirservir and vivir and their derivatives). For example: escribir, escribían, recibir, recibiste, recibido, inscribir, inscribiendo.
  • The infinitives and all verbal forms of: beber, deber, caber, haber and saber.
  •  The endings -ba, -bas, -bamos, -bais and -ban.
  • The imperfect conjugation of iriba, ibas, iba, íbamos, ibais, iban.
  • Words that start with bibl- (for example: biblioteca, Biblia, bibliografía), or with the syllables bu-bur- and bus- (for example: burrito, burlar, buscar.)
  •  The endings -bundo, -bunda and -bilidad (except for movilidad and civilidad). For example: nauseabundo, furibunda, amabilidad.
  •  Words where b is followed by another consonant. For example: amable, brazo, abdicación, obstruir, obvio, bricolaje.
  •  The prefixes bi-, bis-, biz-, that mean "two" or "twice". For example: bilingüe, bisiesto, biznieto.
  •  The prefixes bien- and bene- that mean "well". For example: bienintencionado, beneplácito, benévolo, beneficio.

Which Spanish words are written with "v"?

  • The verb ir in the present indicative, imperative and present subjunctive: voy, vas; ve, vaya; vaya, vayamos and the verbs estar, andar and tener (and their derivatives) in the preterite, the imperfect and the future subjunctive: estuve, estuviera, estuviere; anduve, anduviera, anduviese; tuve, tuviera, tuviese.
  • Adjectives that end in -ava, -ave, -avo; -eva, -eve, -evo and -iva, -ivo. For example: octava, suave, bravo, nueva, leve, decisivo.
  • When the letter v is preceded by the letter d, for example: advertencia, advenedizo, adversario.
  • Prefixes vice-, villa-, villar-. For example: vicealmirante, Villalobos.
  • The endings -viro, -vira, -ívoro and -ívora (except for víbora). For example: Elvira, carnívoro, herbívora.
  • The endings -servar and -versar of the verbs conservar, observar, reservar and conversar.
  • The verbal forms that don't contain b or v in their infinitive: tuve, estuve, anduvieron, vayamos (except for the endings of these verbs in the imperfect: -ba, -bas, -bamos, -bais and -ban.
  • When the letter v is preceded by b, d or n. For example: obvio, adverso, invierno.

Although these rules don't cover every single word that contains b or v in Spanish, they are a great help!

Here are some examples of words that contain b and v:

beber, haber, caberto drink, to have (auxiliary), to fit

estaba, estabas, estaba, estábamos, estabais, estabanI was, you were, he/she/you were, we were, you were, they were

biblioteca, buscar, biografíalibrary, to look for, biography

vagabundo, amabilidad, brazo, bricolajetramp, kindness, arm, DIY

beneficio, bienvenido, bilingüeprofit, welcome, bilingual

estuve, tuve, anduveI was, I had, I walked

 See also Spelling: ll or y and Spelling: h or no h

Q&A Forum 0 questions, 0 answers

Getting that for you now...