Knowing what part of a word to stress is a key part of communicating in any language. Fortunately, in Spanish the rules for word stress are pretty straightforward and easy to remember. In fact, practically every Spanish word falls into one of three categories:
Spanish Word Stress & Accents: Category 1
If a word ends in an n, s or vowel, the stress is put on the penultimate (second to last) syllable. This rule applies to most words in Spanish.
|lata (can) |
Spanish Word Stress & Accents: Category 2
The stress is placed on the last syllable for words ending in any other letter.
| hotel (hotel)|
hablar (to talk)
| mantel (tablecloth)|
secador (hair dryer)
bailar (to dance)
Spanish Word Stress & Accents: Category 3
If you come across a word with an accent over a vowel, it means that the word doesn't fit into either of the first two categories. Therefore, the accent tells you where to place the word stress.
| bolígrafo (pen)|
Practically every rule has a handful of exceptions, so it's only natural that there are a few words that deviate from these otherwise all-inclusive rules.
- Words and names that have been integrated into Spanish from other languages like French and English quite often retain their original spelling and pronunciation but without accents. For exampe:
|sandwich||The stress is placed on the a in sandwich just as in English, but there is no accent to indicate so.|
|Elisabet||The i is stressed, but no accent is placed above it.|
- Finally, sometimes accents are used simply to distinguish two words that otherwise look exactly the same; in other words, it has nothing to do with pronunciation. A prime example is the words el (the article) and él (the pronoun).
|el vs. él||"el" is an article meaning "the", while "él" is a pronoun meaning "he"|
|si vs. sí||"si" is a conjunction meaning "if", while "sí" is the word for "yes"|