The dreaded accent mark

Accents,,, To Include or Not?      So sorry, but you simply can’t avoid using accent marks in written Spanish. A word is not considered properly written if it needs an accent and you omit it, and sometimes omitting it completely changes the meaning of what you’ve written. The good news is that it is easy to master when to use accents.

Before we begin, here’s a hint on being able to easily include accents with your computer. (This may vary depending on your computer make and model.) Go to My Computer, Control Panel, Regional & Language, Keyboards & Languages. Here you can add Spanish as an alternate keyboard. Down at the bottom of your screen you should see EN (you may have to use the left caret to display the language icons). Click the EN, and the ES (Spanish choice) will come up. Make sure that it stays there, and then just type normally in your email or Word. To add an accent to a, e, I or u, type the left bracket key. The carriage. will not move. Then just type an a, and an accent will appear over it as á. It’s the same for all the other vowels. It’s like magic, so have fun with it. The ñ is found at the semicolon, colon key. The upside down question mark is found at the plus sign, and the upside down exclamation point is the plus sign with the shift key. Your keyboard will be different, and you will have to explore a little to find out where things such as apostrophes have moved, but you will have all the tools you need.

The main use of the accent is to show you where the stress falls. The basic rules are:

1. If a word ends in a vowel, N or S, the natural stress will fall on the next to last syllable.

2. If a word ends in a consonant (except N or S) the stress falls on the last syllable. If a word is not pronounced according to these two rules, it needs a written accent over the syllable which is stressed in the way the word is actually said. Analyze these examples: HoTEL, HAblan, primaVEra, baRAto, haBLAR, JoSÉ, francÉS. The last two words do not follow the rules, and so need a written accent.

Another use of accents is to distinguish between words which sound alike, but have different meanings. These will sound the same in speaking, but in writing, the difference will be an accent to denote which meaning you choose: si, if; sÍ, yes de, of or from; dé, the command form for usted of the verb dar el, the; él, he mi, my; mí, me te, you as in Te quiero; té, tea (as in brewed or iced) tu, your; tú, you

Accents are also used with demonstratives or the pointing out words such as this book, that book, that book over there. When they’re used with the noun itself (book), they don’t have accents and are stated as este libro, ese libro, aquel libro. However, if you want to drop the noun (in English we would say this one, that one), just add an accent, and they can stand alone. Éste (this one), ése (that one), aquél. Think of the accent mark as giving it the strength to stand alone.

Yet another use of accents comes up with question asking words or interrogatives. Who, what, when, where, how, how many, why, which.   All have accents when in questions in Spanish. Quién, qué, cuándo, dónde, cómo, cuántos, por qué, cuál.   Note that when these words are not a question, they become relative pronouns and will lose the accent. ¿Dónde está tu casa? La casa en donde vivo está en la Colonia Miraval. ¿Qué tienes en la mano? El libro que tengo es tuyo.

A final use of the accent is over the letter O when meaning or between numbers. If you write Tengo 5 o 6 páginas it can look like the number 506. To avoid this write it this way Tengo 5 ó 6 páginas.

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