Speak Spanish: What’s up with those accent marks in Spanish?

Immerse Insights

  • Syllable stress is crucial in Spanish and can change the meaning of a word.
  • Spanish has a consistent syllable stress pattern.
  • Listening to words with different syllable stresses can help train the ear to recognize these differences.

Our expert Immerse Spanish instructor José shows you why getting the syllable stress right is so important in Spanish, and what this has to do with accent marks.

When you start learning Spanish, you will notice how some words look exactly the same, except for an accent mark, for example, ‘bebe’ (drink) and ‘bebé (baby). You want to make sure you don’t confuse these words and accidentally order a baby instead of a drink. Although, puzzled looks and laughter caused by such confusions will help you remember these words forever 😃

Fun Fact about syllable stress patterns in Spanish

Listen to José explain this further and give you more examples:

Spanish has a consistent syllable stress pattern, which can make it easier to predict where the stress will fall in a word. In general, stress falls on the second-to-last syllable in words that end in a vowel, n, or s, and on the last syllable in words that end in a consonant other than n or s.  In written form, you will find accent marks on words that don’t follow that pattern.

Pro Tip

Listen to words that are written the same but have different syllable stresses to train your ear.  For example, there is ‘esta’ (this) and ‘está’ (is). There is also ‘papa’ (potato) and ‘papá’ (dad). You will also see this when conjugating verbs such as ‘canto’ (I sing) and ‘cantó’ (he/she sang). Or ‘ordeno’ (I order) and ‘ordenó’ (he/she ordered)

It’s as simple as that!

Don’t stop here!

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