/d/ and its allophones

Phoneme quizzes
Review progress (all modules)

A quick recap

/d/ is produced by our tongue tapping against the back of our top teeth – slightly further forward than for our English /d/, which leads to a softer sound:

Variations

/d/ has two allophones: a “hard” [d], and the “soft” [ð]. The hard [d] is the sound we’ve been practising recently (although we call it “hard”, it’s still softer than our English /d/ sound). The softer [ð] sound is closer to our English “th” sound from “this” – although not so soft. It’s between a “d” and a “th” sound in English:

Hard [d]:

 

Soft [ð]:

 

Where these occur

Hard [d] sound occurs at the beginning of the phonemic phrase, or after /n/ and /l/. Listen to the slightly harder quality of the [d] sound in these words and phrases:

Día

 

El día

 

Dar

 

Dolor

 

Dulce

 

Un dulce

 

Dónde

 

Notice that with “el día” and “un dulce”, the [d] sound is still used, as it is affected by the /l/ or /n/ in the previous word (this is assimilation in action, once again!). Speakers in real life do not pause between words!

Softer [ð] sound appears everywhere that [d] is not used. Listen to the slightly softer quality of the [ð] in the following recordings:

Pedir

 

Estado

 

Una docena

 

Ese dedo

 

Again, the quality of the /d/ sound is affected by the sounds that come before it, whether or not these are part of the same word.

When it occurs at the end of the word, the /d/ can actually disappear in casual speech in certain accents:

Usted

 

This elimination of the sound also often occurs in words ending with “-ado” (so, a lot of verbs), at least in fast speech:

¿Qué has tomado?

 

You’ll also often hear the “d” sound disappear with words ending in “dad”, although this is not true with all dialects:

Verdad, ciudad, amistad

Exercise