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Spanish vowels are divided into two categories: hard and soft.
The consonants affected by this hard/soft distinction are C, G, and, to a lesser extent, Z.*
* The letter Z is a hard consonant, meaning that it Z has no "soft" pronunciation and, with very few exceptions, cannot precede an E or an I; it must be replaced by the letter C (as explained below).
Consonant hardening and softening
Some Spanish words need a hard sound in front of a soft vowel, or a soft sound in front of a hard vowel. This is the reason behind many Spanish spelling changes in plurals and irregular verb conjugations (mostly in the preterite and subjunctive). For certain plurals and verb conjugations, it is necessary to change the spelling in order to maintain a hard sound in front of a soft vowel or a soft sound in front of a hard vowel.
To make a hard sound in front of a soft vowel:
|C –> QU||sacar –> yo saqué|
|buscar –> yo busqué|
|G –> GU||pagar –> yo pagué|
|jugar –> yo jugué|
|Z –> C||comenzar –> yo comencé|
|lápiz –> lápices|
To make a soft sound in front of a hard vowel:
|C –> Z||hacer –> él hizo|
|G –> J||coger –> yo cojo|
Please note that this lesson is only a guideline for the Spanish that I know, which is Castilian Spanish. There are many regional variations in Spanish pronunciation, especially when it comes to the letters C, S, and Z: Distinción, Seseo and Ceceo
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