General Question

etignotasanimum's avatar

Can you help me with this Spanish grammar rule?

Asked by etignotasanimum (3376points) March 1st, 2011

I’ve been taking Spanish for a while now, but my grammar still needs some work. One rule that I’m having problems with is under what circumstances is it necessary for the “y” in a phrase to be changed to an “e” and when the “o” should be changed to a “u”. My teachers have corrected these mistakes in my essays, but never explained why it’s wrong.
So, what I’m meaning is when I say: “me gustaba leer y quería aprender más de todos los temas en general”, why is “y” acceptable, but not “e”? Does it mean the same thing? When should I use it, and why?
I’m asking the same thing about using “o”. If I write, “no me gustaba asistir a fiestas o charlar con los niños”, why does “o” work, but not “u”, and what does that mean? When should I use it, and why?

If you can give me examples, that would be greatly appreciated.

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15 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I’m confused. Where do you want to put the u? O means or, is that what you are talking about? My spanish is good, but not perfect. I’ll also send this to a some Spanish speakers for you.

iamthemob's avatar

I’m confused too – “y” in your example is Spanish for “and” – “e” would mean nothing that I can determine.

Pk_JoA's avatar

Hi, I’m an Argentinian, so, Spanish native speaker at your service, sir :)

It’s pretty simple.
Just use “e” when the word next to the “y” starts with a “i” or “y”.
Example: “El caminaba y ignoraba el asunto” it’s not correct, that should be “El caminaba e ignoraba el asunto”.

The same goes for “o” and “u”. Use “u” when the next word starts with an “o”.
Example: “Quiero plata o oro” it’s not correct, that should be “Quiero plata u oro”

But remember. “Y” and “o” should always be your first choices! Only use “e” or “u” in the cases mentioned above.

This is like this to avoid Cacophonys

Pk_JoA's avatar

I beg your pardon, I wrote something incorrect on the previous answer.

I said you should use “e” when the next word started with an “i” or “y”.
Though true, be careful with the “y”, as you only have to use “e” when it is used as an “i”.

“Y ya fue”—> Correct! “Y” is not used as “i”.
“Juan y Ysmael”—> Not correct! Use “e” here, as “y” is pronounced as “i”.

Don’t worry so much though. There are little word were you’ll find “y” pronounced as an “i” :).

PS: I double posted so you could get the notification on my new response. I’m really sorry if I caused any inconvenience for the previous incomplete answer!

JLeslie's avatar

@Pk_JoA ¡Bienvenido! Welcome to fluther.

sliceswiththings's avatar

What @Pk_JoA said. Think of it as “a” vs. “an” in English. “A apple” sounds bad, as does “o oro.”

kheredia's avatar

@Pk_JoA and @sliceswiththings gave you great examples. You cannot use “y” if the following word begins with “i” because they sound the same and therefore does not sound correct. Same thing with the “o” and “u”, “o otros” doesn’t sound right. It’s the same as if you said “A art collection” or ” A answer”, these clearly don’t sound right because you need to have something to separate the “a” and “a”. It’s basically the same concept in Spanish.

Seelix's avatar

The change is only done in the cases above to ease pronunciation. @sliceswiththings’ example of the English “an” is the best comparison, I think. It’s done to avoid the stuttering sound that can occur when a vowel sound is repeated.

Italian does something similar – “e” (and) changes to “ed” before a word beginning with a vowel.

gene116's avatar

Que quiere decir etignotasanimum “e” incomprendible? Did not know about the “u” in plata u oro. Very informative. Thank you my fluthering friends! I’m gonna run right out and use it :)

Pk_JoA's avatar

@gene116 Incomprendible means something that can’t be understood. “Comprendible” is “understandable” and that “in” at front makes it the antonym :)

sliceswiththings's avatar

—@Pk_JoA I think @gene116 was providing an example (“e incomprendible”) so if it weren’t for the “in” it wouldn’t follow this rule.

gene116's avatar


MarioRnesto's avatar

You must use “e” if the next word starts with “i”, ”él camina e incendia”, even if the next word has an “h” before “i”, ”él caminó e hizo”. But, you must use “y” if the next word starts with “hie”, v. gr. “el cobre y el hierro”.
And you must use “u” if the next word starts with “o”, “cobre u oro”.
This rule appears as a solution for a cacophonical problem!

adriifoxx's avatar

It depends on the sound! as others have explained before me, so I won’t bother going into the details…

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