To B or not to V?

There’s a mistake that you’re bound to see sooner or later if you visit online Spanish forums or read blogs in Spanish, and that is the use of the letter “b” when the letter “v” is required. You’re most likely to see this error with the conjugation of the verb TENER in the past tense, but it does happen with other words in Spanish that are homophones, (“palabras homófonas” in Spanish), which are words that sound alike but are different in meaning and spelling.
Here are random examples of some exact quotes, (typos included), that I found in online Spanish forums:
“…es mi 3 dia y ya tube una experiencia fea con un irlandes borracho…” [The word "tube" is not Spanish. The speaker meant "tuve," which is "I had."]


“Tubo problemas con este pais por asuntos de la pesca….” [TUBO means "tube" in Spanish. The speaker meant "tuvo," the third-person singular past tense of the verb TENER.)
"Hola, luego de bajar el video de youtube con safari quiero gravarlo en un dvd para ver en cualquier reproductor de dvd, como hago?" [GRAVAR means "to tax." The correct verb is GRABAR, which means to record.).
In English, there are plenty of homophones. If you're a native English speaker, you probably don't even think twice about them when you use and write them. (knew/new, meat/meet, one/won, stair/stare, etc.)
But what about Spanish homophones? How many do you know?
Here's a list of Spanish homophones containing the letters B or V. It's not complete but it gives you an idea of the variety that exists. Remember that the pronunciation of these words are the same but their spellings and meanings are different.

  • acerbo: scathing, as in a scathing review (una crítica acerba)
  • acervo: heritage, as in cultural heritage (el acervo cultural)
  • baca: luggage rack
  • vaca: cow
  • bacía: a type of container
  • vacía: empty
  • balido: the bleat of a sheep (baaaa)
  • valido: valid
  • barón: baron (as in a title of nobility)
  • varón: male
  • bello: beautiful
  • vello: soft, short hair or down (from an animal) or fuzz (on a plant or fruit.)
  • beta: Beta. Second letter of the Greek alphabet. In English you see it used in Greek fraternity names ["Kappa Beta Psi, Phi Beta Kappa] or in English words and phrases like “Beta-blockers” or the “beta version” of a software.
  • veta: streak or vein that one sees in cuts of wood or meat. (La veta del jamón, la veta de la madera.)
  • bienes: possessions, properties
  • vienes: form of the verb VENIR
  • botar: to bounce, to throw out, to launch
  • votar: to vote
  • grabar: to record, to engrave
  • gravar: to tax
  • rebelar(se): to rebel, to revolt
  • revelar: to reveal, to develop
  • sabia: Feminine form of adjective “sabio” which means wise, learned, sensible
  • savia: sap from a tree or a plant

And just for kicks, here’s an online quiz called “Super Saber” where you can test your knowledge of palabras homófonas in a fun way.