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DELE News

08/16/2012

Accent marks in Spanish


Accent marks in Spanish, á, é, í, ó, ú may seem insignificant, but they represent an important way to show how words are pronounced. Accents point out emphasis. Each word in Spanish contains an accent, a syllable that is stressed, but these don't always have to be marked with an accent mark. The rules on why and where to place accents can be difficult to understand for non-native speakers. We hope that the following explanations help:

Category: General

*If the word ends with s or n or any of the 5 vowels, a, e, I, o, u, then the accent is placed on the second to the last syllable of the word. The accent does not need to be marked. Most Spanish words fall into this category.
Examples: me-sa, za-pa-tos, pa-dre.

*With words that do not end in s, n, or a vowel, and which do not contain an accent mark, the stress is accented on the last syllable of the word. This does not need to be marked either.
Examples: co-mer, pa-pel, or-de-na-dor

*If the stress of the word is placed anywhere besides the places in situations explained in the above rules, the accent mark is written to show readers the syllable on which to pronounce the stress of the word. Examples: di-fí-cil, ár-bol (both words en in I, and would usually be in the second category, with the stress on the last syllable. However since these are exceptions, we need to write an accent mark to show where the stress is placed)
This includes words that are stressed on the second to the last syllable, or the one before that, which is common with compound words.
Examples: dí-me-lo (an imperative + pronouns) du-chán-do se-(gerund + reflexive pronoun), fan-tás-ti-co.
Foreign language words used in Spanish may present some exceptions to these rules.
There are also other special cases for the use of accent marks (or tildes):

*In some situations, accents are not really used for pronunciation. Their function is to differentiate words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, such as:
Tu (possessive) tú (subject) si (conditional) sí (confirmation)
These words are pronounced the same, but the accent helps avoid misunderstandings in written texts. These accents are called diacritical marks.

*Vowels can be divided into hard (A,E and O) and weak vowels (I and U). When we join a weak and a hard vowel, or two weak vowels, they create the sound of one syllable, called a diphthong. When we join a hard vowel with a weak one, the stress falls on the hard vowel.
With two weak vowels joined together, the stress falls on the second vowel. When words don't follow these rules, the accent must be written, for example: río, vía.
Another point to remember is that singular and plural forms of nouns are spelled differently, causing words to gain or lose their accent marks accordingly. The same situation occurs when adjectives change from masculine to feminine. Examples: can-ción / canciones, ingles / inglesa.
The ñ is a letter from the Spanish alphabet, but sometimes it can also be considered an accent. The mark above the n means that the letter must be pronounced nya, like español (pronounced espanyol).

How to type Spanish accents on a keyboard.
Accents in Spanish are an important part of spelling, so make sure you remember to use them. These are the codes you will need to use to write with accents on a non-Spanish keyboard. Just hold down the Alt key and write the number code using the number keys:
Á Alt + 0193 á Alt + 0225
É Alt + 0201 é Alt + 0233
Í Alt + 0205 í Alt + 0237
Ó Alt + 0211 ó Alt + 0243
Ú Alt + 0218 ú Alt + 0250
Ñ Alt + 0209 ñ Alt + 0241