All words in Spanish have a stress, an emphasis on one syllable as opposed to the others. When words follow the rules of accentuation graphic symbols of the stress ( á, é, í, ó, ú) are not needed but if a word does not follow these rules then you would need these graphic symbols to show where the stress is placed.

These are the rules of accentuation:

REGLA Nº 1:Normally, all words which end in N, S or a VOWEL have the stress on the second syllable starting from the end. These words belong to a category known as palabras llanas o graves.

Ejemplos: hermano cantaban señores camino

REGLA Nº 2: All words which end in a CONSONANT except N or S have the stress on the last syllable of the word. These words belong to a category known as palabras agudas.

Ejemplos: papel pared escribir directriz

REGLA Nº 3: If the words do not follow these basic rules they have a graphic symbol known as tilde which is placed on the vowel of the syllable carrying the stress.

Ejemplos: montón ángel laba
  ca piz ánimo

(the words in the last column carry the stress on the third syllable starting from the end and they are known as palabras esdrújulas).



-Some words have a tilde (graphic symbol) to distinguish them from other words which are written the same but have different meanings.

Ejemplos: el (article "the") él (pers.pronoun "he")
  mi (poss. adj. "my") mí (pers.pron. "me")
  si (conjunction "if") sí ("yes")

- All interrogative and exclammative pronouns and words have tilde.

Ejemplos: ¿cómo? ¿cuándo? ¿qué? ¿quién?

- In a stressed syllable with a diphthong (the union of two vowels, one strong <a, e, o> one weak <i, u> forming one syllable) the stress is normally placed on the strong vowel but if the stress is on the weak vowel then the diphthong is destroyed and it has a tilde.

Ejemplos: frío reúne había

-Monosyllabic words do not have a tilde unless they could be mistaken for another word


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