Spanish accent marks
- Spanish written accent practice quiz Score -/-
Spanish accent marks (tilde) are written over the vowel of the stressed syllable.
- 1.General accent rules
- 1.1.Words ending in -vowel, -n or -s
- 1.1.1.Accent on the last syllable
- 1.1.2.Accent on the penultimate syllable
- 1.1.3.Accent on the third to last syllable
- 1.2.Spanish diphthongs, triphthongs, hiatus
- 1.2.1.Accent on diphthongs
- 1.2.2.Accent on thriphthongs
- 1.2.3.Accent on hiatus
- 1.3.Spanish homonyms
- 1.4.Spanish interrogative words
- 1.5.Spanish demonstrative pronouns
General accent rules
There are 5 rules which will help you to know where to put the accent mark in a word:
- Words ending in -vowel, -n or -s
- Spanish diphthongs, triphthongs, hiatus
- Spanish homonyms
- Spanish interrogative words
- Spanish demonstrative pronouns
Remember to study the different word types to get a more in-depth knowledge of the Spanish stress rules.
1. Words ending in -vowel, -n or -s
Spanish words need the accent mark depending on the word's last letter and on the stressed vowel.
Accent on the last syllable
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|
Accent on the penultimate syllable
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
Accent on the third to last syllable
If the accent falls on the third to last syllable, you must always write the accent mark, no matter of the ending.
- cómodo (cómodo)- comfortable
- estómago (e-stó-ma-go)-stomach
2. Spanish diphthongs, triphthongs, hiatus
Diphthongs, triphthongs and hiatus are different kinds of adjacent vowels' combinations.
Accent on diphthongs
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:
- strong stressed vowel + weak unstressed vowel
- weak unstressed vowel + strong stressed vowel
- two weak 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'.
- avión- plane
- bueno- good
- cuídate- take care of you
Accent on thriphthongs
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.
- limpiáis- you clean (2°plural, present indicative)
- iniciéis- you start (2°plural, present subjunctive)
Accent on hiatus
We have a hiatus when two adjacent vowels do not originate a unique syllable. Spanish hiatus is created by:
- two identical vowels
- two strong vowels
- weak stressed syllable + strong unstressed syllable
- strong unstressed syllable + weak stressed syllable
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.
- león- (le-ón)- lion
- caído- (ca-í-do)-fallen: according to general rules, we should not have the mark because the word ends in -vowel, but we have it because the stressed syllable is within a hiatus.
3. Spanish homonyms
The use of accents can change the meaning of words.
- solo (adjective: alone) VS sólo (adverb: only)
- el (masculine article: the) VS él (subject pronoun: he)
- mas (conjuction: but) VS más (adverb: more)
4. Spanish interrogative words
Interrogative words always have an accent mark:
- ¿Quién? (Who?)
- ¿Qué? (What? / Which?)
- ¿Dónde? (Where?)
- ¿Cuándo? (When?)
- ¿Por qué? (Why?)
- ¿Cómo? (How?)
- ¿Cuál? (Which?)
- ¿Cuánto? (How much/many?)
- ¿Dónde vives? (Where do you live?)
- No sé qué hacer. (I don't know what to do.)
There is no accent mark when these words are used as a pronoun.
- La chica que acaba de irse es su novia. (The girl who has just left is his girlfriend.)
- La ciudad donde vive Pablo es muy bonita. (The city where Pablo lives is very beautiful.)
5. Spanish demonstrative pronouns
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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