STRESS AND ACCENT MARKS

In Spanish, there are four different word categories according to where the stress is placed on them. Note that, from these, the first two indicate the most basic rules, and the rest are rather exceptions modified by stress marks.

  1. When a word ends in any vowel, or the consonants “n” and “s”, the stress falls on the penultimate syllable. These are known as “palabras graves” (“grave words”) and cover the majority of the Spanish lexicon; the linguistic term “paroxytone” describes the nature of this type. Examples:

    mar·gen (margin)       --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> mer·cy
    de·dos (fingers)          --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> ro·cket
    cha·ta·rra (junk)         --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> po·ta·to

    Please note that whenever a word finishes in any consonant apart from “s” or “n”, but carries the stress on the penultimate syllable anyway, such syllable must adopt an accent mark. For example: in the case of the words “ángel” (angel) and “acar” (sugar).

  2. Most words finishing on other consonants carry the stress on the last syllable. These are known as "palabras agudas" ("acute words") or "oxytone", according to the proper linguistic term that describes their nature. Examples :

    ho·tel (hotel)              --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> re·ward
    ig·no·rar (to ignore)  --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> se·ven·teen

    Please note that whenever a word finishes either in any vowel or in the consonants “s” or “n”, but carries the stress on the last syllable anyway, such syllable must adopt an accent mark. For example: in the case of the words re·vés (setback), “col·chón” (mattress), and “car·me·” (crimson).

  3. Words carrying the stress on the antepenultimate syllable are known as “palabras esdrújulas” (no direct translation, but the linguistic term is “proparoxytone”). Note that these words take accent marks in all cases. Examples :

    ·gri·ma (tear)           --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> ea·si·ly
    ·cu·lo (oracle)      --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> spec·ta·cu·lar

  4. Words carrying the stress on the syllable next to the antepenultimate are known as “palabras sobreesdrújulas”. Note that these words take accent marks in all cases. Examples :

    vén·de·se·lo (sell it to him/her)         --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> ul·ti·mate·ly
    es·crí·be·me·lo (write it to me)          --> similar to the stress found in the English word --> as·to·ni·shing·ly



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