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:
- Agudas – Oxytone or last syllable stress
- Graves – Paroxytone or second-to-last syllable stress
- Esdrújulas – Proparoxytone or third-to-last syllable stress
- 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:
- You would also add the orthographic accent if they end in “N” or “S”:
2. Spanish accents: GravesThese 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.
- And these are some examples without the orthographic accent:
- 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):
3. Spanish Accents: EsdrújulasThese 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:
4. Spanish Accents: SobresdrújulasThese 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: