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So I'm so far finding Spanish pronounciation/spelling pretty consistent so far, especially European Spanish. However, I have a problem with the letters G and J. Are there any rules, when to use soft G as opposed to J? Like for example, the "G" in "Gigante" sounds exactly the same as the "J" in "Jirafa"? Like if you spell "Jirafa" as "Girafa", it would still sound the same and if you spell "Gigante" as "Jigante", it would still sound the same. Why isn't there a consistent rule, when to use G vs J as there is when to use C vs Z (C for th before I and E and Z in all other cases)?

¡Hola!

Así que hasta ahora encuentro que la pronunciación y ortografía del español son bastante consistentes, especialmente el español europeo. Sin embargo, tengo un problema con las letras G y J. ¿Existe alguna regla sobre cuándo usar G suave en lugar de J? Como por ejemplo, ¿la "G" de "Gigante" suena exactamente igual que la "J" de "Jirafa"? Por ejemplo, si escribes "Jirafa" como "Girafa", seguirá sonando igual y si escribes "Gigante" como "Jigante", seguirá sonando igual. ¿Por qué no existe una regla coherente sobre cuándo usar G frente a J y cuándo usar C frente a Z (C para th antes de I y E y Z en todos los demás casos)?

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  • There is no rule, in fact it's one of the bases of the biggest spelling errors in Spanish along with "v"/"b" and "c"/"s".
    – Danielillo
    Commented Jan 5 at 9:34
  • In my opinion, Girafa instead of Jirafa would be he logical spelling. We could create a rule that, J never occurs before I and E just like with Z. Commented Jan 5 at 16:41
  • There are a lot of words that used "x" in the old spelling and use "j" in the new spelling. Example: México becomes Méjico. This doesn't help the newcomer at all, but it's worth noting. Commented Jan 6 at 12:48
  • In Galician, we don't have J. Commented Jan 6 at 15:49

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As @Danielillo pointed out in his comment, there is not a single rule that can be used to determine whether a soft "G" or a "J" should be used. However, there are some guidelines that can be useful for some scenarios.

Here is the link to the site where I extracted this information from: SOFT G / J. My answer is a summary of the points I thought were most important for a Spanish learner. The site goes into some more detail and gives a couple of more "rules". Hope this helps!


When to use "G"

1. Verbs ending in "-ger" or "-gir" are generally written with a "G"; here are the most common exceptions: "tejer" (to sow), "grujir" (to grunt) and "crujir" (to creak or to crunch) and their derivatives, like "entretejer" (to interweave).

2. Words beginning with "gene-", "geni-" or "genu-"

3. Word ending in "-gen"; apparently there is only one exception to this rule, but as a native speaker I did not even know what that word meant


When to use "J"

4. Verbs ending in "-jear"; once again, there seems to only be one exception, but I think you probably won't encounter it.

5. All nouns ending in "-jero"

6. Words beginning with "eje-"; there are very few exceptions and the same comment as in point 4 applies here


ONE LAST COMMENT

If a verb does not contain the soft g / j sound in its infinitive form, but when conjugating the verb the soft g / j sound appears (in whichever tense the verb is being conjugated in), then a "J" will be used. Some examples:

"decir" (to say) - no soft g / j sound in the infinitve

Past simple: yo dije, tu dijiste, usted / el dijo, nosotros dijimos, vosotros dijesteis, ustedes / ellos dijeron

Another example is the verb "traer" (to bring) and verbs ending in "-ducir", like "traducir" (to translate)

If a verb contains the soft g in its infinitive form, like "proteger" (to protect), and a soft g / j sound appears in a conjugated form of the verb, a "G" will be employed.

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