I've noticed that 'y' is almost exclusively used, but in some cases 'e' should be used instead. I'm basing this on Duolingo so I'm not sure if it's correct, but here are some examples where it requires 'e':

  • Padre e hijo.
  • Quiero hijos e hijas.

What is the rule for determining when to use 'e' as opposed to 'y'? Is it specifically when talking about family, or is it something else entirely?


3 Answers 3


You use 'y' when there is a hard sound in the noun following or a vowel which isn't 'i'.


Me gustan ciencias y matemáticas.

You use 'e' for easier pronunciation when there's a 'i' or 'hi' sound after.


Me gustan ciencias e historia.

  • This answers my question. As a follow up, what sounds are considered hard, and would "soft" sounds use 'e' as well?
    – PandaConda
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 10:59
  • All consonants except 'h' and 'y' are considered hard.
    – user15239
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 11:01
  • 3
    Note that it's not just hi because you say té con azúcar y hielo. It's specifically when it begins with /i/ (hielo is /jelo/, so it gets y) Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 13:02
  • @guifa, yes, but isn't it more correct to say that it's because "ie" in "hielo" is a diphthong? So, it doesn't really start with "hi", it starts with "hie", if that makes any sense. I might be splitting hairs. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 14:36

From the DRAE:

1. conj. copulat. U. en lugar de y ante palabras que empiezan por i o hi. Juan e Ignacio. Padre e hijo. No reemplaza a y en principio de interrogación o admiración, ni cuando la palabra siguiente empieza por y o por la sílaba hie. ¿Y Ignacio? ¡Y Isidoro también comprometido! Ocaña y Yepes. Tigre y hiena. Era u. en lugar de y en cualquier contexto. Música e danza.

So the exceptions are as stated by @guifa in comments with the addition of the y not being replaced by e at the start of questions or exclamations.


Y is used for "and" for all words except those beginning with the "i/y" sound. For example, Me gustan matematicas e historia. Or - Hablo espanol e ingles.

Y would be used for other vowels and all consonants. For example, Yo tome' soda y agua. Or - Hablo ingles y espanol.

(Sorry for not being able to create the accents and tildes - can't do it on this keyboard.)

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