Accent Marks in Spanish

Need to identify Accent Marks in Spanish? Learn the basic usage of written accent marks in Spanish language…

There are two main purposes of accent marks in Spanish language. One point is to identify where the emphasis falls on a word during pronunciations. The second point is to help identify the difference between words that are spelt identically.

You must know that they are utilized only over vowels and on no other letter in the Spanish language. They are placed as a short stroke in an angle from the upper right to the lower left. This forms a diagonal accent on top of the vowels which are crafted as follows: á, é, í, ó, ú.

Rules for accent marks in Spanish

Part 1

The rules are based on the fact that you know which syllable of a word the stress is supposed to occur on. We do not require an accent mark if the words end in one of the five vowels which include A, E, I, O, U or the letters N and S. Furthermore the stress falls on the second last syllable known as the penultimate. An example for this is the word camino which means road. Since the word ends in a vowel which is the letter O, the stress will fall on the second last syllable which is MI.

Similarly with the word hablan which translates into ‘they speak’, it ends in the letter N so the stress goes on to the next-to-last syllable which is HA. To demonstrate the effect of the letter S you can use the example of the word muchachas which means girls. In this case also the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable which would be CHA.

The second rule is based on the fact that a word ends in a consonant apart from the letters S. or N. in this case the stress will follow on the last syllable. For example for the word querer which means ‘to want’, the stress will fall on the last syllable which is RER. Similarly for the word cuidad the stress will fall on the last syllable which in this case is DAD.

Part 2

The written accent mark in Spanish is used when the above two situations are not present. This could include a word ending with an N or S with the stress falling on the last syllable. For example in the word canción, the stress falls on the last syllable therefore you pronounce it as can-CIÓN which means song. Another good example is the word verás which means ‘you will see’ where the stress falls on the second syllable and you have to pronounce it as ve-RÁS.

Another part of this rule applies words that end in a consonant where the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable in the absence of N. or S. at the end. In that situation the rule specifies that an accent mark be used.

An example for this is the word for martyr which is mártir in Spanish. It has the stress on the first syllable because it ends in the letter R.

Similarly in the word for jail, which is cárcel, with the presence of an accent mark the stress falls on the first syllable because the word ends with the letter L.

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