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Writing That Hard, Rolled 'R' Sound in Spanish

If you are learning Spanish, you know that the hard, rolled sound of the letter 'r' in Spanish is one of the most challenging sounds to master. In this lesson, we will review some of the rules you should keep in mind when writing that sound. Let's take a look.

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The 'R' Sound in Spanish

When it comes to pronunciation, there are two types of 'r' sounds in Spanish: the soft, simple 'r' sound and the hard, rolled 'r' sound. Let's listen to these two sounds in the following clip from our friend, Amaya:

 

Viajo con mi perro, como habéis visto antes. Pero además, lo que hago es que intento aprovechar

I travel with my dog, as you've seen before. But additionally, what I do is that I try to take advantage of

Captions 16-17, Amaya El Refugio del Burrito

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As you can see, the word perro (dog) is pronounced with the hard, rolled 'r' sound, while the word pero (but) is pronounced with the soft 'r' sound. In order to indicate the pronunciation of that rolled ‘r’ sound between two vowels, the ‘rr’ (double ‘r’) must be utilized. Let's look at some more words that follow this rule:

 

Tras la guerra con Napoleón,

After the war with Napoleon,

Caption 64, Marisa en Madrid Parque de El Retiro

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¿Ha venido en carro?

Have you come in a car?

Caption 64, Cleer y Lida Recepción de hotel

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Mi barrio no es muy grande,

My neighborhood is not very big,

Caption 2, El Aula Azul Mi Barrio

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Furthermore, it is important to note that words that begin with "r" also have this hard, rolled 'r' sound despite being written with the regular (not double) 'r.' Let's listen to some examples:

 

Encima del río hay un puente.

Over the river there's a bridge.

Caption 20, El Aula Azul Mi Barrio

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se oyó un ruido atronador

a thunderous noise was heard

Caption 43, Aprendiendo con Carlos América precolombina - El mito de Bochica

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Miren, hablando del Rey de Roma.

Look, speak of the devil [literally "the King of Rome"].

Caption 60, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 5 - Part 4

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When 'R' Becomes "RR"

An important rule of thumb is to double the regular ‘r’ to ‘rr’ in cases where an element ending in a vowel is combined with a word that begins with "r.” This occurs very often with words that are formed with prefixes. Let's look at an example:

 

como es la contrarreloj y trabajos de intensidad.

like the time trial and high intensity workouts.

Caption 20, Semilleros Escarabajos Capítulo 1 - Part 5

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In the example above, we have a word that is comprised of the prefix contra- (counter-) and the noun reloj (clock). As you can see, the prefix ends in a vowel, and the noun starts with 'r'. Since we want to keep the hard 'r' sound of the word reloj, we must double the 'r', and our new word must thus be written as contrarreloj (rather than contrareloj). In summary, in order to keep the hard 'r' sound between the two vowels, the 'r' must be doubled to 'rr.'

 

Let's take a look at some additional words that follow this rule:

 

Contrarreforma (Counter-Reformation): contra- + reforma

microrrelato (flash fiction): micro- + relato

pararrayos (lightning rod): para + rayos

 

That's all for today. We invite you to keep these rules in mind when writing that hard, rolled 'r' sound in Spanish. And don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!

 

 

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