When a word ends in a vowel, s, or n, the stress falls on the second-to-the-last syllable:
When a word ends in a consonant, except s or n, the stress falls on the final syllable. All infinitives fall into this category.
All words with a stress on the third-to-last syllable require an accent mark. These words are called palabras esdrújulas.
|es-DRÚ-ju-la||accented on the third-to-last syllable|
Exceptions to the above rules are indicated by a written accent mark on the stressed vowel. That means that if a word does not follow the rules above, an accent mark must be written in on the stressed vowel.
|ÁR-bol (ends in an -l, but breaks rule 2)||tree|
|in-GLÉS (ends in an -s, but breaks rule 1)||English|
|si-LLÓN (ends in an -n, but breaks rule 1)||armchair|
|a-ZÚ-car (ends in an -r, but breaks rule 2)||sugar|
Accent Marks to Distinguish Homonyms
Written accent marks are also used to differentiate between otherwise identical words. This can end up being of importance for reading comprehension in some situations. Note the following pairs:
|el- the||él- he|
|si- if||sí- yes|
|mas- but||más- more, most|
|mi- my||mí- me (prepositional object pronoun)|
|tu- your||tú- you|
|aun- even||aún- still, yet|
|solo- alone, lonely||sólo- only|
As you progress through the text and study the different verb tenses, various cases will be pointed out in which the absence or presence of a written accent mark is the only distinction between two otherwise identical forms of different persons or verb tenses of several verb tenses.