How do Spanish accents work

Accent rules


The stress indicates which syllable of a word is particularly emphasized when speaking. In Spanish there are certain rules of accentuation. If the emphasis deviates from these rules, an accent mark must be used.

Basic stress rules

For Spanish words without accent marks, we can remember the following stress rules:

  • Words ending in n / s or a vowel are stressed on the penultimate syllable.
    foto, photos, veranoFoto, photos, summer
  • Words that end in a consonant (except n / s) are stressed on the last syllable.
    verdad truth

If words are stressed differently than in the rules above, they are given an accent.

álbum, década, MéxicoAlbum, decade, Mexico

The rules for setting accented characters are explained below.

Orthographic rules

When it comes to the stressing of words, there are four types of words, which depend on the stressed syllable of the word. Depending on the position of the stressed syllable and the last letter of the word, an accent mark must be placed over the stressed syllable or not.


The adverbs that lead to -mente ending are the only words with two accents: one on the adjective and the second on the ending -mente. If the adjective had an accent, it stays with the adverb.

último → últimamente
tranquilo → tranquilamente

Vowel connections


Of a diphthong is spoken when two consecutive vowels are part of the same syllable.

abuelos → a-bue-los
ciudad → ciu-dad

Is the diphthong Part of the stressed syllable of the word, the accent mark is set according to the following rules:

  • First there is a weak vowel (i, u) and then a strong vowel (a, e, o) let's put the accent mark above the strong vowel.
    desps, accn
  • Does the diphthong from two weak vowels (i, u), we put the accent mark over the second vowel.


Of a Triphthong is spoken when three vowels appear together and are part of the same syllable. The middle vowel is always made up of two weak vowels (i, u) locked in.

vieira → viei-ra
dioico → dioi-co

Is the Triphthong Part of the stressed syllable of the word, the accent mark is placed above the middle vowel.

copiáis, cambiéis


We're talking about one hiatus, when two vowels appear together but belong to two different syllables. The hiatus can consist of two strong vowels (a, o, e) or from a weak one (u, i) and a strong vowel (a, o, e) consist.

crío → crí-o
baúl → ba-úl
roedor → ro-e-dor
cooperar → co-o-pe-rar

At the hiatus we have to observe the following accent rules:

  • Does the hiatus from a strong vowel (a, o, e) and a weak vowel (i, u), we put the accent on the weak vowel, regardless of whether it is before or after the strong vowel and whether the accent is necessary or not according to the general accent rules.
    oído → o-í-do
    cacatúa → ca-ca-tú-a

    both words end in a vowel without hiatus no accent would be necessary here

  • All other words that one hiatus follow the general accent rules.
    Jaén → Ja-én
    aéreo → a-é-re-o

Change of meaning through the accent mark

In addition to clarifying the emphasis, we also use accent marks for words with the same spelling but different meanings. One speaks here of one diacritical marks.

el - él
esta - está
El it el chico que está esperando para entrar en esta sala.

See also words with / without accent.