Accents may look strange to anyone whose native language doesn’t have any, but they are extremely important in Spanish. Leaving off the accent on a word is a spelling mistake, and may cause confusion.
The Spanish acute accent* (á, é, í, ó, ú) serves two purposes:
1. It indicates that the normal rules of word stress are being overridden. The following table lists the normal rules and has examples of words that follow them as well as words that need accents because they break the rules.
|a)||Words that end in a consonant other than N and S have stress on the last syllable.||
|b)||Words that end in a vowel, S, or N have stress on the penultimate syllable.||
|c)||Most two-vowel combinations diphthong unless one of them has an accent.||
Note: When object pronouns are attached to verbs, the acute accent is used to maintain correct word stress.
2. Acute accents also distinguish between otherwise identical words, such as sí (yes) vs si (if) – learn more.
* The acute accent is rarely called acento agudo in Spanish; it’s more commonly known as tilde,** acento ortográfico, or simply acento.
** Not to be confused with the tilde over the letter n (ñ), which is something else entirely.
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