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Ask a Teacher, Lesson 8 - When do you have to use the conjunction e instead of y?
Hi everybody! Rosa here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Spanish questions.
The question for this lesson is…
When do you have to use the conjunction e instead of y?
First, let’s go over some background information on how to use y.
Y is a conjunction is Spanish that means “and.” It’s a conjugación coordinada copulativa or “copulative coordinating conjunction.” It’s used to connect words or sentences.
An example with words would be--
He estudiado historia y literatura. meaning “I’ve studied history and literature.” Here, the words historia “history” and literatura “literature” are connected with the word y “and.”
An example with sentences would be--
El sábado iré a Madrid y el domingo quiero ir al museo del Prado. meaning “On Saturday I will go to Madrid and on Sunday I want to go to the Prado Museum.” Here, y meaning “and” is used to connect both weekend activities.
Now, on to the question for this lesson. When the word y precedes a word that begins with an i sound, it changes to e. This includes h and i together because h is silent in Spanish.
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn when to use e instead of y.
Mañana quiero levantarme temprano e ir de compras. means “Tomorrow I want to get up early and go shopping.” Here, the verb ir meaning “to go” begins with an i. Therefore, y changes to e.
Let’s do one more example--
Son hermanos, pero parecen padre e hijo. “They are brothers, but they look like father and son.” Here, the word hijo, “son” is spelled h-i but has an i sound. Therefore, y changes to e.
A good thing to remember is words that have been borrowed for other languages such as English and maintain their original pronunciation also require y to change, like in this example--
Me pidió dirección e e-mail. meaning “He asked for my direction and e-mail.” This is because the word “e-mail” has an i sound.
Now, here"s the tricky part. If the word begins with i or hi but doesn"t make an i sound then you don’t have to use e instead of y.
For example, words that have an initial diphthong like...

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Coge la olla y hierve las verduras. meaning “Pick the pot and boil the vegetables,” don’t need y to change as the sound is different than i.
So why do the words change? That’s easy. Because it’s easier to pronounce!
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
¡Hasta luego! “See you later!”