Students are often confused about where to put the accent marks in Spanish. They don’t understand when or how to use them in words. To get better at this takes knowing two things:

  1. the reasons for using Spanish accent marks
  2. the Spanish accent rules

The Two Reasons Spanish Accent Marks Are Used: 

  1. to change the meaning of the word
  2. to “break the rules”, as I call it.

Reason 1 – To Change the Meaning of Spanish Words

This reason is easy. It takes getting to know words over time and how they are changed by accent marks. Here are examples of how they change the meaning of words:

el = the        él = he

tu = your      tú = you

que = that    qué = what

Reason 2 – To “Break the Rules”

In Spanish there are a couple of “rules” that tell us where the stress of a Spanish word naturally falls. If a word ends in a vowel, n, or s, the stress falls naturally on the second to last syllable, like in: habla, comen, chicas. No Spanish accent marks needed.

If a word ends in any other letter, the stress naturally falls on the last syllable, like in: papel, edad, beber. No Spanish accent marks needed.

However, sometimes these rules are broken. When they are, when we need to use accent marks to tell us where the stress should fall.

Look at this example: lápiz. According to the “rules” since lápiz ends in a consonant, the stress should fall on the last syllable. BUT, that is not how Spanish speakers pronounce the word. So, we need to add an accent mark to show where the stress is placed.

Here are some other “rule breakers”: canción, nación, fútbol, música.

Final Word on Where to Put the Accent Marks

If your Spanish students learn the above, they will always know where to put the accent marks on their own. This can be helpful when they are taking a Spanish test and can’t look it up. It also gives them some interesting insight into the Spanish language. Knowing things about how the language works can give students a greater sense of expertise and confidence. 

By the way, if you need a Spanish curriculum for your school/classes, homeschool, or homeschool co-op, will you check us out? Our themed courses build student expertise and provide everything you need for an entire school year!

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