About accent marks in Spanish



When you read a Spanish text, you should always know where the stress of each word is. Just follow these 2 rules:

Words with no accent mark:

If you see a word with no accent mark, then,

Does it end in any consonant, except N or S? THEN the stress is on the last syllable.

doctor, lugar, poder, frijol, Brasil, gobernador, alcohol, mundial, estoy, facilidad, azul, monitor, ciudad, etc. (In Spanish, any consonant different than N or S mostly means D, L, R, Y as in soy and estoy, Reloj (clock or watch) is probably the only one ending in J, Z as in paz, luz.

Most infinitive verbs fall in this group because they end in -ar, -er, -ir.  Just several -ir infinitives have a written accent like oír (to hear).

Otherwise, it ends in A, E, I, O, U, N, S, therefore, the stress falls on the 2nd to last syllable:

resumen, virgen, camarote, figura, abanico, amarillo, verde, rojo, negro, rosa, and many plural nouns: camisas, camiones, papeles, botellas, personas, lentes, pantalones, etc. etc.

Infinitive reflexive verbs, because they end in -e. Bañarse, caerse, enojarse, cansarse, verse, despedirse.

Words with a written accent mark or tilde.

If you see a word with an accent mark (Spanish words will never have more than one accent) then that word breaks the 2 rules above. Disregard the two rules and stress the syllable with the accent mark on it, so it’s that easy.

Difícil, israelí, británico, camión, avión, fácil, dímelo, dáselo.

Some preterite verbs require the accent: comió, estudió, bañó, resbaló, cayó.

Many verbs in the imperfect: creía, decía, estudiábamos, decíamos.

Future and conditional tenses: diré, vendré, comeré, diría, vendría, comería

If the singular noun has an accent mark on the 3rd to last syllable, then it will keep the accent in the plural: libélula, libélulas, jícama, jícamas, sábado, sábados.

The accent mark is used sometimes to split a syllable into two: Raúl /Ra-úl/, sandía /San-dí-a/, oír /o-ír/, García /Gar-cí-a/.

Z Last names: González, Fernández, Rodríguez, Pérez, Gómez, etc.

Remember that you can always listen to a word in a dictionary to confirm its pronunciation. Well, most of the time, if it’s not a conjugated verb or a proper noun, it has to be in the dictionary.


Published originally on 20110328, updated on 20210303 (spanishNY.com) top

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