Learn Spanish Accents

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.

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!

Where Does the Stress Go?

Rule 1.

Most Spanish words that end in n, s, or a vowel are stressed on the penultimate (or next-to-the-last) syllable. Listen to the examples below, repeat each word in the gap that follows, and note where the stress falls. The stressed vowel sound is underlined to help you.

 

camisa, blusa, chaqueta, pantalones, hablo, como, llamo

Some words that end in n, s, or a vowel are stressed on the last syllable instead. These words must carry an accent mark to warn the speaker. Listen to these examples and repeat them aloud.

televisión, conversación, pais, inglés, alemán, mamá, papa, comió, escribió

Rule 2.

Words that do NOT end in n, s, or a vowel are usually stressed on the last syllable. This includes most verbs in their infinitive forms. For example…

comer, hablar, escribir, estar, seguridad, español, actor, doctor

When these words are not stressed on the last syllable, an accent mark is placed over the stressed vowel. For example…

lápiz, árbol, fútbol, vóleibol

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