Tilde ~ Acento agudo
The Spanish acute accent* (á, é, í, ó, ú) serves two purposes:
1. Word stress
The acute accent indicates that the normal rules of word stress are being overridden. Here are the normal rules with 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.
Acute accents also distinguish between otherwise identical words:
|de||of, about||preposition||dé||he gave||from dar (subjunctive)|
|el||the||definite article||él||he||subject pronoun|
|o||or||conjunction||ó||or||(when used with numbers: 2 ó 3)|
|se||oneself||reflexive pronoun||sé||I know
from ser (imperative)
|tu||your||possessive adjective||tú||you||subject pronoun|
In addition to the above are all interrogative words. When they are used in a question, they have an accent. When used to answer a question or make a statement, they don't. Compare the following:
|– ¿Dónde estás?
– Estoy donde quiero estar.
|– Where are you?
– I'm where I want to be.
|– ¿Cuándo vas a hacerlo?
– Cuando tenga tiempo.
|– When are you going to do it?
– When I have time.
|cuanto||how much/many||cuánto||how much/many?|
* 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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