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When do I need to put an accent (pronunciation rules)?

Spanish is great because it is a language which is completely phonetic, which means it is read exactly how it is written and always follows certain rules. One of those rules is about stress. All multi-syllabic words have a stressed syllable, both in English and Spanish. In English for example, SPANish, phoNEtic, comPLETEly, pronunciAtion. In English, it doesn't really matter where you put the stress; it just sounds a bit odd if you do it wrongly, but in Spanish it can change the meaning of a word.

In Spanish, there two main rules to stress. The first is that any word that ends in a vowel, n, or s will have the second to last syllable stressed: HAblo, caMINo, eXAmen.The other is that any word that ends in any consonant other than n or s is stressed on the last syllable: espaÑOL, verDAD.

The rule for accents is simple: anything that breaks the two big stress rules needs an accent. For example: liMÓN, piRÁmide, haBLÓ.

The other time you might use an accent is when distinguishing between two words that are spelled the same, like se and sé, este and éste, or que and qué. These differences need to be memorised, so keep a list and add any new ones!

Sebastian B. A Level Spanish tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor, IB Spanish tutor

12 months ago

Answered by Sebastian, an A Level Spanish tutor with MyTutor


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Degree: German and Spanish (Bachelors) - Bristol University

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