We call ‘acento’ (accent) to the stress/emphasis in our voice when we pronounce a certain syllable in a word:
- papa vs papá
- practica vs práctica
All Spanish words have an accent, but we don’t always put a graphic mark on the word to signal this. This graphic mark (´) that we place on top of a word’s vowel is known as ’tilde’ (written accent).
In Spanish, we classify words into four categories according to which part of the word bears the stress. These categories are agudas, graves (or llanas), esdrújulas y sobreesdrújulas. Let’s take at each of them!
1. Palabras agudas:
The words in this category are accented on their last syllable. We use the ’tilde’ (written accent) only when these words end with the letters N or S or with a vowel:
If a word bears the stress on its last syllable, but ends with a consonant (other than N or S), we do not use a tilde:
2. Palabras graves (or llanas):
The words in this category bear the stress on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable. We use the tilde on them when they end in a consonant (ie, l, m, r, z, etc):
If a word bears the stress on its second-to-last syllable, but ends with the consonants N or S or a vowel, we do not use a tilde:
3. Palabras esdrújulas:
Words in this category bear the stress on their antepenultimate (third-to-last) syllable. We must always use the tilde on las palabras esdrújulas:
4. Palabras sobresdrújulas:
Words in this category bear the stress on any syllable previous to the third from last. We must always use the tilde on las palabras sobresdrújulas:
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