When to use "v" and "b" in Spanish

When to use "v" and "b" in Spanish

As you know, in Spanish we use both "v" and "b" although the two sound the same way, like a "b" (as in "bee").
That makes it more difficult to know when a word is spelled with a "b" or with a "v".
There's no one simple rule, because it answers to history of the language.

Before moving on, remember that some words are spelled with "v" or "b" depending on what meaning they have in that specific context. Ex: sabia (wise woman) or savia (sap from a tree).

I've attempted here to put some guides and clues together in the clearest way possible (I included a short practice at the end).

Verbs in b

  • In imperfect for -ar we always use "b" in the ending: -aba, -abas, -aba, -ábamos, -abais, -aban.

Ex: Escuchaban - They used to listen.
This also happens with the verb ir (to go): Iba, ibas, iba, íbamos, ibais, iban.

  • Verbs ending in -bir, -ber or -buir will use "b".

Ex: Contribuyo - I contribute //// Contribuir - To contribute
Ex: Sabemos - We know//// Saber - To know
Ex: Recibiste - You received //// Recibir - To receive

and more (beber, caber, deber, haber, saber...)
Exceptions: Hervir, servir, vivir and their derivations.

Verbs in v

  • In verbs where there's no "b" or "v" in the infinitive, we use always "v" when we change the verb into different tenses:

Ex: Anduvisteis - You guys walked (preterite) //// Andar - To walk
Ex: Quiero que vayas - I want you to go (pres subjunctive) //// Ir - To go

Nouns in b

  • We use "b" before any consonant (not a,o,e,i,u). This includes words containing bla, ble, bli, blo, blu, bra, bre, bri, bro, bru.

Ex: Blando, absoluto, obvio, tabla...

  • Everytime after "m".

Ex: Ambiguo, embarazada, imbécil...

  • Words starting with: bi-, bis-, biz-:

Ex: Bisabuelo, bizco, binario...

  • Words starting with: ben-, bene-, bon-:

Ex: Bondadoso, benevolente, bendito....

  • Words starting with: ab-, ob-, sub-:

Ex: Obediente, abanico, obispo, subterráneo....
Eceptions: óvalo, óvulo, oveja, ovario, ovino, ovación.

-Words starting with: al-, ar-, ur-:

Ex: Árbitro, albaricoque, arbusto, urna...
Exception: alveolo.

  • Words starting with: sa-, si-, so-, su-:

Ex: Sábana, silencio, solitario, sueño...
Excepcions: savia, soviético, suversión.

  • Words starting with lab-, tab-, rat-:

Ex: Laboratorio, taberna, ratonera...
Exceptions: lavar, lava (from a volcano), ravioles.

  • Words starting with blib-, bu-, trib-, turb-, rib-:

Ex: Biblioteca, tribuna, bujía, turbina, ribete...

Exceptions: vuelco, vuelo, vuelto, vuestro, vulgar, vulnerar.
trivial, rival, rivera

  • Words starting with -bo and followed by d, f, n, r, t.

Ex: Botijo, botánico, bonito, boda, bordado, bofetada...
Exceptions: vodevil, voraz, votar.

  • After -ca ,-ce, -co, -cu.

Ex: Caballo, cebolla, cobertizo, cubrir...
Exceptions: cavar, caverna, cavilar, caviar, cavidad, ceviche.

  • Words ending with - bilidad, -bunda/o.

Ex: Amabilidad, contabilidad, moribunda, vagabundo...
Exceptions: Civilidad, movilidad.

Nouns with V

  • All the exceptions from the previous section.

  • After d, n or b:

Ex: Invisible, obvio, advertir, convivivencia...

  • Words starting with clav-, div-, salv-:

Ex: Diversión, salvar, clavija...

  • Words starting with eva-, eve-, evo-, evi-:

Ex: Evangelio, eventualidad, evolución, evidencia...
Exceptions: ebanista, ébano, ebonita.

  • Words starting with nav-, nov-, pav:

Ex: Navegar, novedad, pavo...
Exceptions: nabo, noble, pabellón, pábulo.

  • Words starting with vice-, villa-.

Ex: Vicedirector, villancico...
Exceptions: bíceps, bicentenario, bicéfalo, billar.

  • After ol-, pra-, pre-, pri-, pro-:

Ex: Olivas, resolver, depravado, imprevisto, privilegio, provecho...
Exceptions: Prebenda, probable, probar, problema, probabilidad.

  • Words ending in ava, -ave, -avo:

Ex: Octava, clavo, astronave...
Exceptions: baba, haba, aldaba, árabe, álabe, jarabe, cabo, lavabo, nabo, menoscabo, rabo and the imperfect of -ar verbs (Ex: hablaba).

  • Words ending in eva, -eve, -evo, -iva, -ivo:

Ex: cueva, nieve, huevo, adictiva, abrasivo...
Exceptions: ceba, prueba, mancebo, placebo, recebo, sebo, criba, giba, arribo, estribo, recibo.

Similar ones like -avi or -uvi will usually also be with “v” but not enough times to consider it a rule.

  • Words ending in -vira, -viro, -ívora, -ívoro:

Ex: Cochevira, séviro, herbívora, carnívoro....
Exception: Víbora.


Choose the right word:

A Vacilar / B Bacilar
A Vocanada /B Bocanada
A Aveja / B Abeja
A Cavellera / B Cabellera
A Velador / B Belador
A Vrasero /B Brasero
A Devilidad / B Debilidad
A Veneno / B Beneno
A Delictivo /B Delictibo
A Vrillante / B Brillante
A Avícola / B Abícola
A Variante / B Bariante
A Diavólico /B Diabólico
A Vestia / B Bestia
A Vendaje / B Bendaje
A Velleza / B Belleza
A Vaciar / B Baciar
A Enganchava / B Enganchaba
A Covertura / B Cobertura
A Devorar / B Deborar

Vacilar / Bocanada / Abeja / Cabellera/ Velador/ Brasero / Debilidad / Veneno/ Delictivo / Brillante / Avícola / Variante / Diabólico /Bestia / Vendaje/ Belleza / Vaciar / Enganchaba / Cobertura /Devorar

If you have any question leave it below and I'll get back to you :)

¡Hasta pronto!