When should I use accent marks in Spanish?

Where should you put the accent mark or tilde in Spanish?

One question Spanish learners often have is where to place the tilde in Spanish. As you might already know, the accent mark tells us which syllable should be stressed. However, not all words in Spanish have a tilde, which is why it’s important to listen to as much Spanish as possible. If you know the correct pronunciation of a word, you will know where the stress is, and this will be very helpful in determining whether the word needs the accent mark or not. Now, let’s go over some rules.

When should you use the tilde?

  1. When a word ends in a vowel, “n” or “s,” and the stress is on the last syllable.
    Examples: sofá - bebé - avión - balcón- autobús - japonés.

  2. When the word does not end in a vowel, “n” or “s,” and the stress is on the next-to-last syllable.
    Examples: dólar - ángel - azúcar - difícil - hámster - líder

  3. When the stress falls on the third-to-last syllable (or before this one).
    Examples: América - brócoli - héroe - México - básicamente - políticamente- cómetelo.

Why is it that words such as casa, comer, and hotel do not have an accent mark?

There are many words you probably already know that don’t fall into any of these categories. Therefore, they don’t need the accent mark. Let’s take a closer look:

  • If the word ends in a vowel, “s” or “n,” and the stress is on the next-to-last syllable, then it will not need an accent mark.
    Examples: casa – cama - lunes - gafas – imagen - aborigen

  • If the word ends in a consonant and the stress is on the last syllable, then no accent mark is needed.
    Examples: comer – cantar - bailar – hotel - frijol

If you have already studied Spanish for a while, you’ve probably realized that you can learn all these rules without even studying them. You just need to listen and read, and I’m sure this will come naturally, the same way most native speakers have learned it. However, if you’re still in doubt, I hope this guide will help you in your Spanish-learning journey.