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Why is "Enrique", even though its 'r' position is at the middle of a word, pronounced as a double "r"? What are the orthographic rules you need to know to determine if an "r" must be pronounced as a double "r" or just an "r"?

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+1 Nice question. Simple but useful... In my Spanish studies I never noticed this rule. :) –  Alenanno Nov 28 '11 at 15:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The "strong R" (as in Rat) is spelled as just one r when in the middle of a word follows an L, M, N or S. As it's said in the comments, maybe M should not be considered because I can't think on any word with "mr".

Examples:

Alrededor, Conrado, desratizar...

la letra R

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The link only mentions l, n, and s. Are you sure about m? –  jrdioko Nov 28 '11 at 17:43
    
I answered with what I remembered from school and just looked for the examples, now that you say I can't think on any word that has "mr"... I'll comment if I found one. –  Laura Nov 28 '11 at 17:50
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@jrdioko found it! but you were kind of right as it's an onomatopoeia and an archaism (I think)buscon.rae.es/draeI/SrvltConsulta?TIPO_BUS=3&LEMA=rumrum –  Laura Nov 28 '11 at 17:56
    
You mentioned "rat", do you mean the english letter? Speaking about "R", maybe English is not the best example... :D –  Alenanno Nov 28 '11 at 18:52
    
@Alenanno yes, I meant the sound –  Laura Nov 28 '11 at 21:43

I didn't know why this happened, but there's an explanation on elcastellano.org which boils down to this: common names or surnames follow the same rules as every spanish word, but "single r" is pronounced like a "strong r" (like "ratón") when following "l", "n" or "s".

This is obvious when forming words from other that start with "strong r": "enrejar" (from "reja"), "enredar" (from "red"), etc. But also in names like Enrique or Israel, or adverbs like "alrededor".

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7  
Do you mind adding a quick explanation here too? This is useful in case the original page is modified or even deleted, otherwise your answer becomes useless... :) +1 by the way, since you answer the question. –  Alenanno Nov 28 '11 at 15:21
    
Done. Hope I haven't make it worse with my explanation O:-) –  rsuarez Dec 2 '11 at 16:05

Pronunciation of r and rr in Spanish:

The Spanish r is harder and more abrupt than the English r. It is similar to the rd sound in 'card'. Additionally, r is trilled at the beginning of a word and following l, n and s. The rr is always trilled.

Note that the hardness of the r sound often depends on region. I've seen some Spanish texts from parts of South America say the r sounds exactly like an English d--this is not true in many places.

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About the resemblance with english d, it's actually double d, as in Eddy and it's the one english sound that sounds similar to the spanish r –  Petruza Jan 10 '12 at 3:00
    
How does the d in Eddy sound any different than a single d? Or maybe I don't understand what you're saying. –  Flimzy Jan 10 '12 at 6:27
    
Yes, that's right, the dd in Eddy sounds totally different than the single english d, and Eddy is in fact the example given in english when trying to explain the spanish r. It doesn't sound logical, but hey, english is not logical. –  Petruza Jan 10 '12 at 19:37
    
I've never heard the dd in Eddy pronounced any differently than a single d in English. And my father's name is Eddy, so I would probably know if it was pronounced differently (at least in American English). Do you have a source for this information, as it's completely new to me. –  Flimzy Jan 10 '12 at 21:21
    
Nope, no sources, just what I told you –  Petruza Jan 10 '12 at 22:00

Another way to understand this is based on what sounds exist in Spanish. From Wikipedia:

The alveolar trill [r] and the alveolar tap [ɾ] are in phonemic contrast word-internally between vowels (as in carro 'car' vs caro 'expensive'), but are otherwise in complementary distribution. Only the trill can occur after /l/, after /n/, and after /s/ (e.g. alrededor, enriquecer, Israel), and word-initially (e.g. rey 'king'). After a plosive or fricative consonant, only the tap can occur (e.g. tres 'three', frío 'cold').

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One simple rule: R is soft when is surrounded by two vowels or placed before a vowel while preceded by a consonant other than l, n or s. R is strong otherwise.

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By surrounded you mean by two vowels or at least by one vowel? because for example: in carne and honra the r is surrounded by exactly one vowel and one consonant, and in the first case it's a soft r and in the second case it's hard. –  Petruza Jan 10 '12 at 2:57
    
@Petruza Your examples are right. I was trying to provide an easy "rule". Edited. –  pferor Jan 10 '12 at 12:04

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