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There are some exceptions with the pronunciation of the Spanish “U” when the “U” is silent in certain words. However, usually the “U” is pronounced and when it is pronounced it is always distinct, even when unstressed.
By this I mean, for example with the word “gurú” (guru): when you say “gurú” there are two syllables “gu” and “rú” and the “U” has the same pronunciation in both, even though the syllable “rú” is the stressed syllable and the syllable “gu” is not.
The “U” is silent when:
1. It follows a “q”. For example: que (that, what) and químico (chemical).
2. And also when it follows a “g” and is then followed by an “e” or “I”. For example: “guerra” (war) and “guitarra” (guitar). If it is necessary to pronounce the “U” in such a combination, a pair of dots called “dieresis” are placed over the “U”. For example: “pingüino” (penguin). Such words are uncommon.
Now I will give you some examples of Spanish words featuring a pronounced letter “U” and I would like you to repeat each word after me paying attention to the distinct “U” sound. If you would like to see the meaning of any words you are unsure of please see the lesson notes.
Listen and repeat:
Único: only one/unique
Next, let´s practice some words which contain a silent “U”:
Quemar: to burn
Daily free Spanish lessons provided by Spanish Teacher Laura Garrido Eslava