Spanish Accents

This free audio lesson is on Spanish accents and emphasis. Understanding where to put the emphasis in a word can be as difficult as sounding out the word itself. Fortunately, Spanish makes it easy for you. When a word is stressed on an irregular syllable, an accent mark will appear above the stressed vowel.

Spanish accent marks look like this:

á é í ó ú

Pay attention to accent marks! Two words might be spelled exactly the same, but the presence of an accent mark can completely change their meaning.

For example, esta means “this” while está means “is.” Llamo means “I call” while llamó means “He, she, or you called.” Accent marks are also used to distinguish how a word is used: for example, dónde and donde both mean “where,” but the first is used to ask a question while the second is used in statements. So no matter what you do, don’t forget the accent!

It’s important to know that all words in Spanish have an accent. The accent is the intensity of the voice to emphasize a syllable over the others. Some words carry a “tilde”, identifying the orthographic accent. All words have accents but not all have an orthographic accent.

Spanish accent rules

 There are rules to determine in which syllable there would be an orthographic accent (tilde). There are four different types of words that determine accentuation:

  1. Agudas – Oxytone or last syllable stress
  2. Graves – Paroxytone or second-to-last syllable stress
  3. Esdrújulas – Proparoxytone or third-to-last syllable stress
  4. Sobresdrújulas – Preproparoxytone  or fourth-to-last syllable stress

1. Spanish accents: Agudas

These are the words that carry the accent on the last syllable. It is important to mention that not all these words have an orthographic accent.

  • They carry the orthographic accent if they end in a vowel:

San José

San Jose

Sofá

Sofa

Café

Coffee

Necesito un menú.

I need a menu.

Papá

Dad

Other examples include; RubíBebé and Maní

  • You would also add the orthographic accent if they end in “N” or “S”:

También

Also / Too

Corazón

Heart

Nunca jamás.

Never again.

París

Paris

Other examples include; SegúnSillónVotaciónOrganización, and Capitán

There are last-syllable-stress words that carry a “tilde”, despite NOT ending in N, S or a vowel; this is due to the rupture of the diphthong:

  • Baúl
  • Maíz
  • Raíz
  • Raúl

These are some examples for last-syllable-stress words WITHOUT an orthographic accent:

  • Amor
  • Cantidad
  • Papel
  • Reloj
  • Capaz
  • Pared
  • Estoy
  • Virtud
  • Fatal
  • Contador

2. Spanish accents: Graves

These are the words that carry the accent on the second-to-last syllable. It should be noted that not all the second-to-last-syllable words carry an orthographic accent (tilde).
 
  • Second-to-last syllable words are orthographically accentuated when they end in any consonant except "N", "S" or a Vowel.
Here are some examples: 

Árbol

Tree

Cáncer

Cancer

Eso es difícil.

That is difficult.

Azúcar

Sugar

Útil / Inútil

Useful / Useless

Other examples include; CóndorTúnelLápizCéspedDócil, and Mártir

  • And these are some examples without the orthographic accent:

El problema

The problem

Los zapatos

Shoes

Pesca

Fishing

Banco

Bank

Other examples include; AdultoBuscaCisneTasa, and Crimen

  • Second-to-last syllable words and diphthong IA

There are second-to-last syllable words that are accentuated despite finishing in a vowel, thereby breaking the diphthong (ia):

Biología

Biology

Other examples include; MaríaAntropología, and Oftalmología

3. Spanish Accents: Esdrújulas

These are the words that carry the accent on the third-to-last syllable. It’s important to note that in this case all the words carry the orthographic accent (tilde); always.
 
Examples of proparoxytones:
 

Música

Music

Económico

Economic

Pájaro

Bird

Other examples include; AméricaTarántulaSílabaMáquinaLágrimaBrújulaGráfico, and Oxígeno

4. Spanish Accents: Sobresdrújulas

These are the words that carry the accent on the fourth-to-last syllable. They all carry an orthographic accent.

These words are generally verbs that are linked to direct or indirect complements and adverbs.

Examples of fourth-to-last syllable words:

Rápidamente

Quickly

¡Dígaselo a mi amigo!

Tell my friend!

Other examples include; Ultimamente, Devuélveselo, Éticamente, Róbaselo, Explícaselo, Juégatela, Rústicamente, Véndemelo, Repíteselo, Súbitamente, Ágilmente, Pacíficamente, and Cálidamente

Here are a few recommended Spanish lessons to try next!


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