Spanish Alphabet and Pronunciation Guide: Accents


ACCENTUATION
Accentuation refers to the stress put on different parts of words. For example, the English word "ba-by" has the accent (or verbal stress) on the first syllable "ba". If you say the word with the accentuation on the wrong syllable "ba-by" you realize the significance of accentuation. In English, accentuation is somewhat unregulated, and it can be difficult for foreign speakers to know which syllable receives the verbal stress by just looking at a word. However, in Spanish there are strict, consistent rules whereby one can easily learn to have perfect accentuation.

INTONATION
Each language has its own intonation pattern: the way the voice goes up and down within spoken phrases. If the appropriate intonation patterns of the language are not followed, misunderstandings can arise. Throughout this course, hundreds of phrases will be spoken by native Spanish speakers, which you can model your intonation after.

Spanish Accentuation

In Spanish, there are two parts to learning accent marks. The first part is learning to read them and where to stress the words with accents, and the second is knowing when to put accents marks on a word. After learning the information in this lesson, you'll be able to correctly pronounce words with accents as well as know which words need accents and when to put them on.

First is learning how to read accent marks. Basically, any time you see an accent on part of a Spanish word, you should emphasize that part of the word where the accent if found.

As words are pronounced in Spanish there is an accent or "stress" on certain syllables. This section covers the specific rules that show how words should be pronounced in Spanish. The great thing is that there are no exceptions to these rules, unlike in English.

SPANISH SYLLABLES

Before jumping into accentuation, we must first focus on syllables, which are an integral part of accentuation.

How many syllables do the following words have?
1. encyclopedia
2. monkey
3. alligator
4. hat

To understand the how Spanish syllables are formed, it is important to know that there are two kinds of vowels: STRONG and WEAK vowels.


STRONG VOWELS: "a" "e" AND "o"

When two strong vowels are next to each other, they each form a syllable.

a-e e-a o-a
a-o e-o o-e

Sample Words
pa-e-lla
bo-a
a-é-re-a
pre-o-cu-par
tra-er
cre-ar
te-a-tro
re-ga-te-ar
ca-er


WEAK VOWELS: "u" AND "i"

When a weak vowel is next to any other vowel, they form just one syllable.

ai ia oi au
ie ue
ei io ui
eu iu uo

Sample Words
ciu-dad
pien-so
ja-guar
cui-da-do
huer-ta
nau-fra-gio
chue-co
con-cier-to
me-mo-ria


PRONOUNCING WITH THE ACCENT ON THE CORRECT SYLLABLE
There are three basic rules for accentuation relating to pronunciation (deciding which syllable receives the verbal stress).

If the word has an accent then follow Rule #1:


RULE #1

If the word has an accent, stress the part of the word where the accent is found.

1. te-le-vi- sión - television
2. can- ción - song
3. na-ta- ción - swimming
4. vein- tiún - twenty-one
5. con-so-la- ción - comfort
6. miér -co-les - Wednesday
7. es- trés - stress
8. -ba-dos - Saturdays
9. -ve-res - groceries
10. ex- á -me-nes - exams
11. -ja-ro - bird
12. co- mién -do-lo - eating it
13. co- mió - he ate
14. -ne-ro - gender
15. ó -pa-lo - opal

If the word doesn't have an accent follow Rule #2 and Rule #3:

RULE #2

If a words ends in an "n", "s", or a "vowel", the verbal stress falls on the second to last syllable.
"n" Endings
1. pien -san - they think
2. pa- re -cen - they seem
3. a- bu -rren - they bore us
4. can -tan - they sing
5. ob- tie -nen - they get
6. des- can -san - they rest
"s" Endings
7. bar -cos - ships
8. tien -das - stores
9. pier -des - you lose
10. e-di- fi -cios - buildings
11. com- prue -bas - you prove
"vowel" Endings
12. tier -no - tender
13. ca -sa - house
14. chue -co - crocked
15. bo- ni -ta - pretty
16. ro -to - broken
17. ma-ra-vi- llo -sa - wonderful
18. e-xce- len -te - excellent


RULE #3

When a word ends with any consonant other than "n" or "s", the verbal stress falls on the last syllable.
1. prin-ci- pal - principal
2. ar-chi-va- dor - filer
3. ciu- dad - city
4. se-rie- dad - seriousness
5. des-can- sar - to rest
6. co- mer - to eat
7. in-quie- tud - worry
8. es-ta- tal - state
9. po-pu- lar - popular
10. es-ca- sez - scarcity
11. po-ten- cial - potential
12. ca- paz - capable


DIPHTHONGS (VOWEL MIXES)

A diphthong (vowel mix) is a combination of a weak and a strong vowel or two weak vowels. Listen to and practice the pronunciation of the following diphthongs.

Sample Words
(ai)
1. vaina - sheath
(ia)
2. memoria - memory
(ei) 3. pleito - dispute
(ie) 4. pie - foot
(oi) 5. boicot - boycott
(io)
6. comentario - comment
(ui)
7. destruir - to destroy
(iu)
8. ciudad - city
(eu)
9. neutro - neutral
(ua)
10. agua - water
(au)
11. pauta - guideline
(ue)
12. pueblo - small city
(uo)
13. individuo - individual
Important Considerations

ASSIMILATION

Assimilation is when a letter sounds like the letter that follows it. For example, in the English word "uncle," the "n" is not produced by the tip of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, but by the back of the tongue touching the roof of the mouth - the same way that the "c" following it is produced.

"n" ASSIMILATION

Just like in English, the Spanish "n" can also be pronounced in several different ways. Listen to the following words and concentrate on the different ways the "n" is pronounced.

Sample Words
If followed by "v/b," the "n" sounds like a "v/b":
1. Invitar - to invite
2. Ellas quieren viajar - They want to travel
If followed by "f," the "n" sounds like an "f":
7. información - information
8. Hay un ferrocarril - There is a railroad
If followed by an "m," the "n" sounds like an "m":
3. En marzo - immobile
4. inmediatamente - immediately
If followed by a "g," the "n" sounds like a "g":
9. pongo - I put or place
10. un gorila - a gorilla
If followed by a "p," the "n" sounds like "p":
5. Un parque - a park
6. Ellos juegan ping-pong - They play pin-pong
If followed by a "c," the "n" sounds like a "c":
11. banco - bank
12. Hay un camino - There is a path

Sample Sentences
1. No pude hablar bien con María. - I couldn't speak well with Maria.
2. Fue inútil haber hablado con Gerardo. - It was useless having spoken with Gerardo.
3. Tuvimos un buen año con la compañía. - We had a good year with the company.


"s" ASSIMILATION

The "s" can either sound like an "s" or like a "z", depending on the consonant that directly follows it. If a consonant after an "s" is voiced, the "s" makes a "z" sound.

Sample Words - "s" that sounds like "z"
1. cosmos - cosmos
2. mismo - same
3. Isla - island
4. Es mucho - It's a lot
5. pasmado - astonished
6. Es dinero - It's money
7 . cosmetología - cosmetology
8. Oslo - Oslo
9. asma - asthma

Sample Sentences
1. La isla está siempre limpia. - The island is always clean.
2. Osman tiene asma. - Osman has asthma.
3. La cosmetología es mucho dinero. - Cosmetology is a lot of money.


WORD LINKING

When an English speaker hears a native Spanish speaker, it generally sounds as if he/she is speaking very quickly or as if all the words are being run together into one large word; this is because of "word linking". Word linking can be defined as two or more words that are connected or "run together." It occurs when one word ends in a "vowel" or "consonant" and the following word begins with a "vowel".


EXAMPLES
"consonant" -> "vowel"
1. el papel oscuro
2. aprender algo
3. con ellos
4. pantalón azul
5. libros interesantes
"vowel" -> "vowel"
6. para eso
7. voy a ayudar
8. cuarto oscuro
9. ve eso
10. libro interesante


EXAMPLES
"consonant" -> "same consonant"
1. el libro
2. los sonidos
3. Ellos comen nueces

Word linking also occurs when one word ends with a "vowel" or "consonant" and the next word begins with an "h".

EXAMPLES
"consonant"/"vowel" -> "h"
  1. va a hacer
  2. comen hígado
  3. otro hogar
  4. el hecho

Sample Sentences

  1. La casa amarilla es más grande que antes. - The yellow house is bigger than before.
  2. La reja azul está hecha de madera. - The blue fence is made of wood.
  3. Necesito el desarmador para armar una mesa. - I need a screwdriver to assemble a table.
  4. Mi abuela tiene ochenta y tres años. - My grandmother is eighty-three years old.
  5. Voy a hacer la comida esta noche. - I am going to make the food tonight.
  6. Me gusta ir a la tienda cuando hace frío. - I like to go to the store when it is cold.
  7. Hay algo grande y feo en el cuarto. - There is something big and ugly in the room.
  8. Me gusta hablar con mis amigos en mi casa. - I like to talk to my friends at my house.
  9. Margarita está enojada hoy. - Margaret is mad today.
  10. Ese abogado es alto, flaco, e inteligente. - That lawyer is tall, skinny, and intelligent.
  11. El va a celebrar la Navidad con sus amigos. - He is going to celebrate Christmas with his friends.
  12. Gracias por estar tan feliz hoy. - Thanks for being so happy today.
  13. Vamos a la fiesta esta noche. - We are going to the party tonight.
  14. Ella siempre regresa a las ocho de la noche. - She always returns at 8:00 P.M.
  15. Ellos tienen once hijos menores de ocho años. - They have eleven children under the age of eight.
  16. Hay un hombre interesante en mi trabajo. - There is an interesting man at my work.
  17. Mi esposa es muy hermosa y joven. - My wife is very beautiful and young.
  18. Hay tres lápices en mi mochila azul. - There are three pencils in my blue backpack.
  19. Hay tres cuartos en el edificio. - There are three rooms in the building.
  20. Hay un árbol verde en la huerta. - There is a green tree in the yard.


Back to Spanish Pronunciation Menu