In Spanish, when the letter G precedes a U plus a hard vowel, both vowels are pronounced, and the U is pronounced [w] (like an English W):
In order to obtain this [w] sound in front of a soft vowel, the Ü comes into play. The two dots over the U are called a dieresis and indicate that two adjacent vowels both need to be pronounced as a diphthong:
In Spanish, the dieresis is only found on the letter U, and only in front of E or I. When a U is followed by a hard vowel, as in guapo, the W sound / diphthong is automatic.
In comparison, U without dieresis + a soft vowel (E or I) just makes the G hard – see lesson on hard/soft vowels. It’s the dieresis that indicates that the U has its own sound in words like vergüenza., pronounced [ver gwen za]. Without the dieresis, "verguenza" would be pronounced [ver gen za].
Accent on grammar
1) Some conjugations of verbs that end in –guar require the dieresis.
2) The verb argüir loses its dieresis in many conjugations.
- Letters: G | U
- Hard and soft vowels
- How to type accents
Germanic and Nordic languages have a similar-looking accent called an "umlaut."
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