How to Use Hyphens in Spanish?

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Welcome to our blog post on “How to Use Hyphens in Spanish?” If you’re a beginning Spanish student, especially if English is your first language, you might have noticed a tendency to overuse hyphens.

In Spanish, hyphens, known as “guiones,” are used far less frequently compared to English. While they find some use in more formal or journalistic writing, they are rarely used in everyday spoken language.

Join us as we explore the proper and sparing use of hyphens in Spanish, helping you avoid common pitfalls and enhancing your writing skills in this beautiful language!

Check also: How to Use a Semicolon in Spanish?

Main Points: Hyphens in Spanish

  • Unlike English, Spanish uses hyphens (guiones) sparingly, mainly in formal or journalistic writing, and they are rarely used in everyday spoken language.
  • In Spanish, hyphens are used to join compound words, such as “bien-estar” (well-being) or “alto-falante” (loudspeaker), to clarify their meaning and avoid confusion.
  • Hyphens are employed when prefixes and suffixes are attached to words, such as “ex-presidente” (ex-president) or “auto-estima” (self-esteem).
  • In cases where words have the same spelling but different meanings based on syllabic emphasis, hyphens are used, for example, “el examen está fácil” (the exam is easy) vs. “el examen está fácil” (the exam is made).

When to Use Hyphens in Spanish

In Spanish, hyphens are mainly used to combine two adjectives or nouns of equal importance, forming a compound word. For example:

  • Es un curso teórico-práctico. (It’s a course that’s theoretical and practical.)
  • relaciones sino-estadounidenses (Chinese-U.S. relations)
  • el vuelo Madrid-Paris (the Madrid-to-Paris flight)
  • literatura hispano-árabe (Spanish-Arabic literature)
  • Los pétalos son blanco-azules. (The petals are bluish-white.)

In such compound adjectives, the second adjective agrees with the noun in number and gender, while the first adjective usually remains in the singular masculine form.

An exception occurs when the first part of the compound uses a shortened form of a word, acting like a prefix, and no hyphen is used, as in “sociopolítico” (socio-political), where “socio” is a shortened form of “sociológico.”

Hyphens can also be used in Spanish to join two dates, similar to English, like “la guerra de 1808-1814” (the war of 1808-1814).

Check also: How to Responses to “How Are You Today” in Spanish?

When Hyphens Are Not Used in Spanish

  1. Numbers: In Spanish, numbers like “veintiuno” (twenty-one) and “veintiocho” (twenty-eight) are written as one word without hyphens.
  2. Words with prefixes: Spanish words like “antifascista” (anti-fascist), “antisemitismo” (anti-Semitism), “precocinar” (pre-cook), and “cuasilegal” (quasi-legal) don’t use hyphens as they do in English.
  3. Compound words with different status: In Spanish, words like “hispanohablante” (Spanish-speaking), “bienintencionado” (well-meaning), and “amor propio” (self-respect) are written together without hyphens.

Additionally, in English, it’s common to hyphenate two words to form a compound modifier before a noun. However, in Spanish, such words are often translated as a phrase or single word, or they are not translated word for word.


  • “Well-informed citizenry” (ciuidadanía bien informada)
  • “Sub-zero temperatures” (temperaturas bajo cero)
  • “Good-natured person” (persona bondadosa)
  • “Man-eating tiger” (tigre que come hombres)
  • “High-intelligence individuals” (individuos de alta inteligencia)

Check also: Essential Tips: Navigating Diacritical Marks in Spanish


In conclusion, mastering the proper use of hyphens in Spanish allows for clearer and more accurate communication, avoiding common mistakes made by English-speaking learners. By understanding when to use hyphens to form compound words and respecting the differences from English, you can enhance your writing skills and embrace the subtleties of the Spanish language. Happy learning!

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