1.3 Accentuation

Rule 1

When a word ends in a vowel, s, or n, the stress falls on the second-to-the-last syllable:

MA-no hand
MA-dre mother
HA-blan they speak
HOM-bres men

Rule 2

When a word ends in a consonant, except s or n, the stress falls on the final syllable. All infinitives fall into this category.

pa-RED wall
re-LOJ watch (timepiece)
ca-PAZ capable
be-BER to drink

Rule 3

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
SÁ-ba-do Saturday
a-ca-DÉ-mi-co academic
pa-RÉN-te-sis parenthesis

Exceptions

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.

Last revised on June 16, 2021.