Accent Marks

19.10.2016 |

Episode #3 of the course Spanish language basics by Nicole Joslin


¡Hoy es el tercer día del curso! Today is the third day of the course! Today we’re going to learn more about the Spanish pronunciation system and how accent marks work.

I’m sure you’ve seen accent marks in Spanish before. They are small marks above the vowels in Spanish, like: á, é, í, ó, ú.

Before we get into why and how they are used, I need to explain something to you about syllables and syllable stress in Spanish.

In Spanish, just like in English, words have syllables. Let’s look at a few examples of words split up by their syllables:

• ga-to
• la-va-pla-tos
• con-ver-sa-ción

In general, Spanish words have their second to last syllable stressed. This means that we say GAto, not gaTO. The same works with lavaplatos. The second to last syllable is -pla-, so we say lavaPLAtos, putting the emphasis, or pronunciation stress, on the second to last syllable.

This all changes, however, when we have an accent mark in the word. The accent mark indicates where we should put the syllable stress. That means that in the case of the word conversación, we have to stress the last syllable. We pronounce it as conversaCIÓN, which is the last syllable instead of the second to last.

That means that accent marks are very useful tools for pronouncing words properly! If you don’t stress the correct syllable, you could end up saying a completely different word, so make sure to get it right.

Before we get to the second use of accent marks, I’d like to point out some types of words that do not follow this second to last syllable stress rule. These are words that end in the letters ‘L,’ ‘R,’ and ‘D.’ In this case, the last syllable is the one that should be stressed. Here are some examples:

• albañIL
• profeSOR
• verDAD

Now you know the syllable stress rules in Spanish! We’re going to see the second use of the accent mark in Spanish now.

The second use of the accent marks is not to guide pronunciation, but to differentiate two words that look the same. See the following examples:

• él / el
• qué / que
• está / esta

These words look the same—except for the accent mark. The accent mark shows us that these words mean different things.

• él means ‘he’ / el means ‘the’
• qué means ‘what’ / que means ‘that’
• está means ‘is’ / esta means ‘this’

Don’t underestimate the power of the Spanish accent mark! Not only does it guide your pronunciation, but it can also show you the difference between similar words.

Tomorrow, we’re going to talk all about Spanish nouns and their genders. Yes! All Spanish nouns have genders. You’ll know all about it by the end of tomorrow’s lesson!

Hasta mañana,


Recommended book by Highbrow

“501 Spanish Verbs: Fully Conjugated in All the Tenses in a New Easy-To-Learn Format Alphabetically Arranged” by Christopher Kendris


Share with friends