Spanish accent marks and stress

Today you are going to learn about the Spanish accent marks and how to stress Spanish words.

Have you noticed that in Spanish we sometimes use one accent mark on letters? The tilde or the acute accent is written above a vowel to indicate stress on a syllable: avión, jaro, ca, árbol…, but not all words have this acute accent, so how to know what is the stressed syllable? Continue reading to discover it.

Spanish accent and stress

  • Spanish words are generally stressed on one syllable which may or may have a written accent. When a syllable does not contain an accented vowel, the following rules will determine the implicit location of the stress:  
  • Words ending in N, S, or a vowel are stressed on the penultimate syllableblanco (white), roja (red), naciones (countries), bonita (pretty), casa (house)… 
  • Words ending in a consonant other than N or S are stressed on the final syllable: ciudad (city), papel (paper), reloj (watch), hablar (to speak)… 

When the stress on a word violates the above rules, the word should have a tilde. 

  • If a word ends in a vowel, N or S and the accent is on the final syllable, a tilde is required: estación (station), so (sofa), autobús (bus)…
  • If the consonant ending is other than –n or –s and the stress is on the penultimate syllable, it should have a tilde: árbol (tree), acar (sugar),  fácil  (easy)…
  • If a word is accented on a syllable other than the last or the penultimate syllable, a tilde is needed always: Arica (America), tefono (telephone), bado (Saturday)…

Spanish words according to their stress

A word is called AGUDA when is stressed in the final syllable, like ciudad, papel, autobús, inglés

A word is called GRAVE or LLANA when is stressed in the penultimate syllable, like blanco, bonita, acar,cil…

A word is called ESDRÚJULA when is stresses in the syllable before the penultimate, like tefono, bado, esdrújula, católico…

 Monosyllabic words normally have not “tilde”.  Although, In some cases, an accent mark is used to differentiate homonyms words but has no effect on pronunciation:  (yes),  si (if),   (you),  tu (your),  él (he),  el (the)… This is called ACENTO DIACRÍATICO, and you can learn more about this topic clicking on the link.

Spanish diphthongs and hiatus

When an unaccented weak vowel forms a syllable with an adjacent strong vowel, the strong vowel receives the spoken stress, this is called diphthongs. Examples: peruano, puede, tiene…

An accented weak vowel placed beside a strong vowel form two distinct syllables; this is called hiatus. Examples biología (biology) policía (pólice), baúl (trunk)…

Click on the link if you want to learn more about diphthongs and hiatus in Spanish.

Video de Spanish accent on letters

Now you can review everything you have already learned above about the Spanish accent on letters by watching this video in Spanish, which will help you to notice how words change according to their stress.

While you are watching the video, repeat the words trying to imitate their intonation and, when you finish, practice with a dictation.

Here is a summary explained in Spanish and below you will find more exercises for you to practice. 

Spanish accent marks and stress

Remember that you can ask your tutor any questions you have, don’t you have a Spanish tutor yet? And if you want to practice you can request an online tutorial.

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