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  USE OF ACCENTS IN SPANISH  
  Introduction: About Accents  
 
  • Some Spanish words bear a "diacritic" mark in the form of a written accent mark over the stressed vowel. Most words bear no accent.
  • Use of accents is standard, and should be learned and applied.
  • Accents appear only over vowels, never over consonants.
  • No word bears more than one accent.
  • Only "acute" accents (á, é, í, etc.) are used, never other types, such as: à, â, etc.
  • Accented vowels (and other diacritics such as ü, ñ, ¿, ¡) are readily producible in word processing documents and on web pages. (Click here to see how.)
  • An accent is used for one of the reasons listed below.
 
  STEPS TO TAKE TO MASTER ACCENT USE (top of page)  
 
  1. For words of more than one syllable, be aware of syllable division within the word. (Syllabification Rules)
  2. Learn and apply the accent rules; use accent if the word has irregular stress (see Rule 1 below.)
  3. If Rule 1 does not apply, apply remaining rules, using accent if the word:
    • has a stressed i or u immediately following or preceding an a, e or o. (Rule 2)
    • is interrogative or a related exclamatory word. (Rule 3)
    • is one of a small group of stressed words that is spelled identically to another, unstressed word (Rule 4).
 
  SYLLABIFICATION RULES: DIVIDING WORDS INTO SYLLABLES (top of page)  
 
  • Vowels
    • Single Vowels belong to one syllable:
      • ca-ma-re-ro, hos-pi-tal bo-ni-ta, pú-bli-co
    • Adjacent "strong" vowels (a, e, o) form part of separate syllables:
      • le-o, re-al, Is-ra-el, a-e-ró-bi-co
    • Combinations of "strong" plus unstressed "weak" (i, u) or two "weak" vowels form a single syllable:
      • trein-ta, pien-sa, deu-da, cuen-to, cuo-ta, ra-dio, ruid-do, ciu-dad
  • Consonants
    • Single consonants (including, rr, ch, ll, y, "w" sound) go with following syllable:
      • pro-me-sa, ni-ño, mu-cho, ca-lle, pe-rro, pa-pa-ga-yo, ca-ca-hue-te
    • Pairs of which the second is l or r go with following syllable:
      • ha-blo, a-pli-ca, E-bro, ma-dre
    • Other pairs split:
      • Mar-ta, Cal-de-rón, sen-tir, am-bos
    • Three-consonant combinations of which the last is l or r split after the first letter:
      • ham-bre, in-clu-ye
    • Other three-consonant combinations divide after the second letter:
      • cons-ti-tu-ción, trans-por-te
    • Four-consonant combinations divide after the second letter:
      • ins-truc-ción, trans-cri-bir
 
  ACCENT RULE 1: NON-COMPLIANCE WITH STRESS RULES (top of page)  
 
  • Place an accent over the stressed vowel of a word if the word's stress does not comply with the stress rule (A or B) that applies to it:
    • Stress Rule A: Words ending in a vowel, n or s are stressed on the second-to-last syllable):
      • ha-blo, but ha-bló
      • tra-ba-jan, but tra-ba-ja-rán
      • sa-ba-nas, but sá-ba-nas
    • Stress Rule B: Words ending in any other letter are stressed on the last syllable:
      • ca-ra-col, but ár-bol
      • a-je-drez, but Gon-zá-lez
      • con-tar, but con-tár-se-lo
    • Some Additional Points
      • Due to this rule, a noun or adjective may "gain" or "lose" an accent when made plural:
        • na-ción, but na-cion-es
        • jo-ven, but jó-ve-nes
      • A -mente adjective formed from an adjective bearing an accent on third-to-last syllable retains accent there even though stress shifts to ending and is normal:
        • rá-pi-do→rápidamente
        • es-pon-tá-ne-a→es-pon-tá-ne-a-men-te
 
  ACCENT RULE 2: STRESSED WEAK VOWELS (top of page)  
  The norm is that when a strong vowel (a, e, o) is preceeded or followed by a weak vowel (i, u), the strong vowel is stressed (if either of them is). Exceptions to this are marked with an accent; examples:
      • se-rie, but frí-e
      • vein-te, but re-í-mos
      • guar-da, but gra-dú-a
      • oi-go, but o-í-mos
 
  ACCENT RULE 3: INTERROGATIVE AND EXCLAMATORY WORDS (top of page)  
 
  • Place an accent over the stressed vowel of interrogative1, implied interrogative2, and related exclamatory3 words.
    • ¿Cuándo1 es el partido? Yo no sé cuándo2 es, pero yo sé dónde2 es.
    • ¿Cómo1 se llama él? ¿Qué1 hace? ¿Dónde1 vive? ¿Quién1 es su madre?
    • ¡Cuánto3 come ese niño! ¡Qué3 bueno!
  • No accent is used in corresponding non-interrogatives:
    • Ellos saben que la chica con quien hablo es mi prima.
    • Luisa es tan alta como yo.
    • Donde yo vivo, no hay supermercado.
 
  ACCENT RULE 4: WORDS WITH IDENTICAL SPELLING (top of page)  
 
  • Place an accent over the stressed vowel of certain stressed words identical in spelling to another, unstressed word.
 
 
  Unstressed Stressed  
  de (preposition; of, from) (verb; dar)  
  el (article; the) él (pronoun; he)  
  mas (conjunction; but (lit.)) más (adj./adv./pron.; more)  
  mi (adjective, my) (pronoun; me)  
  se (pronoun; himself, etc.) (verb;,saber/ser)  
  solo (adjective; alone) sólo (adverb; only)  
  te (pronoun; you) (noun; tea)  
  tu (adjective; your) (pronoun; you)  
 
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