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Spanish accents – or any other type of accents – are a pain in the neck for someone whose first language doesn’t require accent marks. How do you type them on a classic keyboard? How does the pronunciation of a certain word change when you use accent marks? Do they influence stress? How can you remember when to use them?
If you don’t know the main Spanish accents rules yet, these questions may give you a major headache. But don’t give up yet! Accents are important in any language (that uses accent marks) – not just in Spanish. It’s important to realize that an accent mark – or the lack of it – can change the meaning of a word completely. And if you want to master Spanish, that can’t happen to you. So here are the most important facts you should know about Spanish accents.
1. Spanish letters with accents
Starting with the basics it’s important to know that accents or accent marks can also be referred to as diacritics, diacritical marks or diacritical signs. These represent an extra symbol or glyph added to a letter. In Spanish, accents are also called “tilde” – although in English the exact same word refers to the “~” symbol. Spanish natives refer to this symbol as “la tilde de la eñe” or “la virgulilla”.
The Spanish language has three types of accent: the well-known tilde (ñ), the acute accent (ú) that is usually indicated in speech with word stress, and the diaeresis (ü). The letters that can receive accents are the five vowels – a, e, i, o, u.
Therefore, here’s the Spanish accents list: á, é, í, ó, ú, ñ, ü
Taking into consideration the fact that Spanish does not have grave or circumflex accents, this is barely a list, isn’t it? Read on to discover how to use them in your day-to-day conversations in Spanish.
2. How to pronounce Spanish words with and without accents
You already know that, in linguistics, stress represents the syllable or syllables of a word that is/are pronounced with emphasis. In Spanish, stress and accents are very important because they help you distinguish between two words. For example, “ella mandó una carta” means “she sent a letter”, while “yo mando una carta” means “I send a letter”. Here are some more useful examples:
|tú (you)||tu (your)||Tú tienes un perro muy bonito. ¿Es tu única mascota?||You have a very cute dog. Is it your only pet?|
|té (tea)||te (you)||Te recomiendo que tomes mucho té.||I recommend that you drink a lot of tea.|
|cómo (how/what)||como (like, as)||¿Cómo se llama tu colega? ¿Es tan inteligente como Cristian?||What is your colleague's name? Is he as smart as Cristian?|
|él (he)||el (the)||A él le gusta el vino.||He likes the wine.|
|sí (yes)||si (if)||Sí, quiero probar el chorizo pero solo si no es picante.||Yes, I want to try the pork sausage but only if it is not spicy.|
In this situation, it is not only the meaning that is different but also the pronunciation of the words. You’ll see that as soon as you get used to the Spanish pronunciation of stressed words, you’ll actually begin to have a problem with the words that have no accents. No worries though! Here are the simple rules that will tell you exactly how to apply word stress:
1. If the word ends with a vowel – any vowel -, the letter “n” or the letter “s”, the stress is on the next to last syllable. For example:
– com-pu-ta-do-ra – computer in English
– her-mo-so – beautiful in English
2. If the word ends with a consonant – other than “n” or “s”, the stress is on the last syllable. For example:
– fe-liz – happy in English
– pro-fe-sor – professor in English
Otherwise, if the word has an acute accent, ignore the above-mentioned rules and stress the syllable that contains the accent. You’ll eventually get used to pronouncing and writing these words. The best option for you would be to exercise with the Mondly Chatbot where you’ll both SEE and HEAR the words.
P.S.: A recurring problem that we all have is connected to words like “cuánto” and “cuanto” or “cómo” and “como”. When do you use an accent and when you DON’T use an accent?
Well, a very simple and fast answer would be that for questions like “¿cuánto tengo que pagar?” (how much do I have to pay), you have to use an accent. If the sentence is an affirmation or a statement like “tú no sabes cuanto te voy a extrañar” (you don’t know how much I will miss you), there is no accent needed.
You will probably go through similar situations with these questions as well:
- ¿Quién? – Who?
- ¿Qué? – What? / Which?
- ¿Dónde? – Where?
- ¿Cuándo? – When?
- ¿Por qué? – Why?
- ¿Cómo? – How?
- ¿Cuál? – Which?
3. How to type Spanish accents and punctuation
Whether you use a PC or a Mac, the best route is to change the keyboard settings to “US – International”.
Then, to type the special “á” character, you only need to press the apostrophe key and the letter “a”. Here’s a full list with all the key combinations:
- á = ‘ + a
- é = ‘ + e
- í = ‘ + i
- ó = ‘ + o
- ú = ‘ + u
- ñ = ~ + n
- ü = ” + u
- ¡ = Alt (hold) + !
- ¿ = Alt (hold) + ?
If that doesn’t work, you can try writing the special Spanish characters using cryptic codes.
Here’s how to write Spanish accents on a PC
|á||Alt + 0225|
|é||Alt + 0233|
|í||Alt + 0237|
|ó||Alt + 024|
|ú||Alt + 0250|
|ü||Alt + 0252|
|ñ||Alt + 0241|
|¿||Alt + 0191|
|¡||Alt + 0161|
Here’s how to write Spanish accents on a Mac
|á/é/í/ó/ú||press both “alt” and “e”, then release them and press the desired vowel|
|ñ||press both “alt” and “n”, then release them and press “n” again|
|ü||press both “alt” and “u”, then release them and press “u” again|
Well, now you know everything about Spanish accents!
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