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.
Resources for further reading:
- Pronouncing the Spanish alphabet is one of the key building blocks to Spanish fluency!
- Trying to pronounce some Spanish consonants can pose problems for English speakers. Let's give it a go!
Spanish accent marks look like this:
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.
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:
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.
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Necesito un menú.
I need a menu.
Other examples include; Rubí, Bebé and Maní
Also / Too
Other examples include; Según, Sillón, Votación, Organización, 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:
These are some examples for last-syllable-stress words WITHOUT an orthographic accent:
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).
Here are some examples:
Eso es difícil.
That is difficult.
Útil / Inútil
Useful / Useless
Other examples include; Cóndor, Túnel, Lápiz, Césped, Dócil, and Mártir
Other examples include; Adulto, Busca, Cisne, Tasa, and Crimen
There are second-to-last syllable words that are accentuated despite finishing in a vowel, thereby breaking the diphthong (ia):
Other examples include; María, Antropología, and Oftalmología
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:
Other examples include; América, Tarántula, Sílaba, Máquina, Lágrima, Brújula, Gráfico, and Oxígeno
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:
¡Dígaselo a mi amigo!
Tell my friend!
Other examples include; Ultimamente, Devuélveselo, Éticamente, Róbaselo, Explícaselo, Juégatela, Rústicamente, Véndemelo, Repíteselo, Súbitamente, Ágilmente, Pacíficamente, and Cálidamente.
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