- Most words can be broken up into syllables. These are the different sounds that words are broken up into. They are shown in this section by | and the stressed syllable is underlined.
- There are some very simple rules to help you remember which part of the word to stress in Spanish, and when to write an accent.
- Words DON’T have a written acute accent if they follow the normal stress rules for Spanish. If they do not follow the normal stress rules, they do need an accent.
TipThe accent that shows stress is always an acute accent in Spanish (´). To remember which way an acute accents slopes try thinking of this saying:
It’s low on the left, with the height on the right.
1 Words ending in a vowel or -n or -s
- Words ending in a vowel (a, e, i, o or u) or -n or -s are normally stressed on the last syllable but one. If this is the case, they do not have any written accents.
|ha|bla||he/she speaks||ha|blan||they speak|
|co|rre||he/she runs||co|rren||they run|
- Whenever words ending in a vowel or -n or -s are not stressed on the last syllable but one, they have a written accent on the vowel that is stressed.
|su|bí||I went up|
2 Words ending in a consonant other than -n or -s
- Words ending in a consonant (a letter that isn’t a vowel) other than -n or -s are normally stressed on the last syllable. If this is the case, they do not have an accent.
- Whenever words ending in a consonant other than -n or -s are not stressed on the last syllable, they have an accent.
3 Accents on feminine and plural forms
- The same syllable is stressed in the plural form of adjectives and nouns as in the singular. To show this, you need to:
- add an accent in the plural in the case of unaccented nouns and adjectives of more than one syllable ending in -n
- Note that in the case of one-syllable words ending in -n or -s, such as tren above, no accent is needed in the plural, since the stress falls naturally on the last syllable but one thanks to the plural -es ending.
- drop the accent in the plural form of nouns and adjectives ending in -n or -s which have an accent on the last syllable in the singular
- The feminine forms of nouns or adjectives whose masculine form ends in an accented vowel followed by -n or -s do not have an accent.
|un francés||a Frenchman|
|una francesa||a French woman|TipJust because a word has a written accent in the singular does not necessarily mean it has one in the plural, and vice versa.
Ends in n, so rule is to stress last syllable but one; follows rule, so no accent needed in singular
Ends in s, so rule is to stress last syllable but one; breaks rule, so accent is needed in plural to keep stress on jo-
Ends in n, so rule is to stress last syllable but one; breaks rule, so accent is needed in singular
Ends in s, so rule is to stress last syllable but one; follows rule, so no accent needed in plural to keep stress on -cio-
4 Which vowel to stress in vowel combinations
- The vowels i and u are considered to be weak. The vowels a, e and o are considered to be strong.
- When a weak vowel (i or u) combines with a strong one (a, e or o), they form one sound that is part of the SAME syllable. Technically speaking, this is called a diphthong. The strong vowel is emphasized more.
TipTo remember which are the weak vowels, try thinking of this saying: U and I are weaklings and always lose out to other vowels!
- When i combines with u or u with i (the two weak vowels), they form ONE sound within the SAME syllable; there is more emphasis on the second vowel.
- When you combine two strong vowels (a, e or o), they form TWO separate sounds and are part of DIFFERENT syllables.
5 Adding accents to some verb forms
- When object pronouns are added to the end of certain verb forms, an accent is often required to show that the syllable stressed in the verb form does not change. These verb forms are:
- the gerund whenever one or more pronouns are added
|comprándo(se)lo||buying it (for him/her/them)|
- the infinitive, when followed by two pronouns
|vendérselas||to sell them to him/her/them|
|háganselo||do it for him/her/them|
|compradlo||buy it| PreviousNext
6 Accents on adjectives and adverbs
- Adjectives ending in -ísimo always have an accent on -ísimo. This means that any other accents are dropped.
|expensive|| ||very expensive|
|difficult|| ||very difficult|
- Accents on adjectives are NOT affected when you add -mente to turn them into adverbs.