How to Use the Accent Correctly in Spanish

These familiar signs that go above certain vowels have confused generations of students. Do you know where and when to use them? For instance, there are two ways to write the word "aun", but when to use the accent? This is something that Word is not going to fix for you. Here are some rules to help get a grasp on the details.

Steps

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    If you know how the word sounds, find the accented syllable. The accented syllable is the one that gets the most emphasis or that you dwell on a bit longer. For example: comida, tefono, chocolate.
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    If a word has an accent in it, the syllable containing the accent is the one that is stressed or emphasised. For example: tefono, lo.
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    All "flat" words have an accent if they end in a consonant other than "n" or "s" (the letter "y" is considered a consonant). These are words that have the accented syllable second from the end: fácil, césped, mártir, álbum.
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    All "high-pitched" words have an accent if they end in a vowel, n, or s. These are words that have the accent on the last syllable: caerá, alhelí, así, camión, jamás.
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    The word "aun" is written with an accent only when it can be substituted for the word "todavía", for instance to mean "still". For example, Aún podemos hacerlo. (We can still do it.), Aún hay esperanzas. (There is still hope). On the other hand, aun has no accent if it means "even". For instance, Aun cuando quisiera, no podría hacerlo (Even when I want to, I couldn't do it.) Aun él tendrá que escucharme. (Even he will have to listen to me.)
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    This word "sólo" (meaning "only") has an accent in case of ambiguity about its adverbial form, in other words when it means "solamente". If it means "alone," no accent is needed.
    • Sólo sé que no sé nada. (I only know that I know nothing.)
    • Luís vive solo. (Luís lives alone.)
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    Place an accent in the word "sí" when it means "yes;" omit the accent if it means "if."
    • Sí, puedo ir si mi mamá me permite. (Yes, I can go if my mom lets me.)
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    For adverbs ending in -mente, use the accent if the word that forms the stem originally had an accent. For example rápidamente (quickly, rapidly) has an accent because rápida has an accent. Thus, "rápida"+"mente" has an accent. By contrast, posiblemente doesn't have an accent, since posible, originally, doesn't either. Hence, "posible"+"mente" has no accent.
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    Learn the accent rules for pronouns. In general, use the accent if the pronoun is a subject or object. Do not use the accent if the pronoun is possessive. The words "conmigo" and "contigo" have no accents.
    • Me dió el libro a . (He gave the book to me.)
    • Mi libro está en el escritorio. (My book is on the desk.)
    • ¿Dónde está tu llave? (Where is your key?)
    • ¿Me llamaste tú? (Did you call me?)
    • ¿Quieres ir al cine conmigo? (Would you like to go to the movies with me?)

Tips

  • Orthography (correct writing) was not designed to confuse us or to complicate life, as we might suppose. It was created to avoid ambiguities in the language. Understanding this is a step towards writing correctly, more often.
  • Read a lot. Read all that you can. This will help you to learn to use the accent instinctively, and then you won't have to remember rules.

Article Info

Categories: Spanish