Often students are confused about when to use accent marks when writing Spanish words. There are two reasons accent marks are used:to change the meaning of the word or to “break the rules” as I call it.
Here are examples of how they change the meanings of words:
- el = the él = he
- tu = your tú = you
- que = that qué = what
Now the other reason – In Spanish there are a couple of “rules” that tell us where the stress of a word naturally falls. If a word ends in a vowel, n, or s, the stress falls naturally on the second to last syllable, like in: habla, comen, chicas, papeles. No accent marks needed.
If a word ends in any other letter, the stress naturally falls on the last syllable, like in: papel, edad, beber.
So, when we want to “break the rules” we need an accent mark to tell us where the stress should fall. For example: lápiz. According to the “rules” since lápiz ends in a consonant, the stress should fall on the last syllable, BUT that is not how the word is pronounced, so we need to add an accent mark to show where the stress is placed.
Here are some other “rule breakers”: canción, nación, fútbol, música, fantástico.
And that’s about it!
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