Spanish accent marks (tilde) are written over the vowel of the stressed syllable.
There are 5 rules which will help you to know where to put the accent mark in a word:
Remember to study the different word types to get a more in-depth knowledge of the Spanish stress rules.
Spanish words need the accent mark depending on the word's last letter and on the stressed vowel.
If a word ends in -vowel, -n or -s and the accent falls on the last syllable, you have to write the accent mark.
|vowel||Jabalí (ja-ba-li) - wild boar|
|-n||Jabón (ja-bon) - soap|
|-s||Inglés (in-gles) - English|
|-other letter||abril (a-bril)- april|
If a word doesn't end in -vowel, -n or -s and the accent falls on the penultimate syllable, you have to write the accent mark.
|vowel||casa (ca-sa)- house|
|-n||comen (co-men)- they eat|
|-s||martes (mar-tes)- tuesday|
árbol (ár-bol)- tree
lápiz (lá-piz)- matita
If the accent falls on the third to last syllable, you must always write the accent mark, no matter of the ending.
Diphthongs, triphthongs and hiatus are different kinds of adjacent vowels' combinations.
The sequence of two vowels in one syllable can create a diphthong. In the Spanish language, diphtongs are made by the following combinations of strong (a,e, o) and weak (i,u) vowels:
With diphtongs, accentuation rules do not change but, in the case of a two weak vowels diphthong, the mark must always falls on the 'i'.
The thriphthongs is a sequence of three vowels. In the Spanish language, it is made by a combination of unstressed weak vowel + stressed strong vowel + unstressed weak vowel.
On Spanish thriphthongs, the accent mark always falls on the strong vowel.
We have a hiatus when two adjacent vowels do not originate a unique syllable. Spanish hiatus is created by:
For case 1 and 2, you have to follow the general accentuation rules, while for case 3 and 4 remember to always write the accent mark on the weak vowel.
The use of accents can change the meaning of words.
Interrogative words always have an accent mark:
There is no accent mark when these words are used as a pronoun.
The use of accents on demonstrative pronouns (this one, that one) differentiate them from the demonstrative adjectives (this –, that –).
No quiero comprar este libro, prefiero ése. (I don't want to buy this book. I prefer that one)
However, the neuter pronouns do not carry the accent marks: esto, eso, aquello.
Estoy cansada. Por eso me voy a la cama. (I am tired. So, I’m going to bed.)
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