Spanish Grammar: Characters and Accent Marks

Spanish Grammar: Characters and Accent Marks

Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project


Spanish Grammar: Characters and Accent Marks
la gramática española: las letras y los acentos

  • Indicate stress on specific syllables.
  • Identify and distinguish certain words from others.


60-Second Spanish Grammar Lesson


Accent marks can appear over any vowel in Spanish.

A, E, I, O, U
can be
Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú or Ü

Accent marks can appear in all kinds of words. (Nouns, adjectives, verbs, and more!)

Accent marks are written indicators that let you know how to properly pronounce a word in Spanish. Their function is to help you read, write, and speak well!

Accent marks do NOT change the pitch or tone of the word (unlike French), but they indicate where to STRESS or EMPHASIZE certain syllables in words.

When a word does NOT have any accent marks, you should stress the second-to-last (penultimate) syllable in the word.

When a word DOES have an accent mark you should stress the syllable that has the accented vowel in it.

This makes Spanish easy to read out loud, even if you have never seen certain words before!

All accent marks in Spanish are represented by a single diagonal mark, from bottom left to top right.

In Spanish, there are a few rules we can use to help us pronounce words correctly.

First: If a Spanish word has NO accent mark, the EMPHASIS in the word lands on the second-to-last syllable (penultimate syllable).

el LI-bro / The book
la SI-lla / The chair
la CLA-se / The class
la pro-fe-SOR-a / The professor (fem.)
la es-CUE-la / The school
la com-pu-ta-DOR-a / The computer

Second: If a Spanish word DOES have an accent mark, the first rule is thrown out and the EMPHASIS lands ON the accent mark in the word.

¿-mo, es-? / How are you?
MIÉR-co-les / Wednesday
-ba-do / Saturday
die-ci-SEÍS / Sixteen

Letters like the (ñ) or the (ü) are considered to be one complete letter and NOT just (n) or (u) with an additional accent mark. Just treat them as completely different letters since they have completely different sounds!

Question marks and exclamation points appear at the beginning AND end of Spanish sentences!

Here is a chart detailing how to type these characters on Windows and Apple computers!

Symbol Win. Alt Codes
Win. Alt Codes
Apple / Mac Hotkeys
Á / á ALT+0193 ALT+0225 Type “OPTION+E”, then lowercase or uppercase vowel.
É / é ALT+0201 ALT+0233 Type “OPTION+E”, then lowercase or uppercase vowel.
Í / í ALT+0205 ALT+0237 Type “OPTION+E”, then lowercase or uppercase vowel.
Ó / ó ALT+0211 ALT+0243 Type “OPTION+E”, then lowercase or uppercase vowel.
Ú / ú ALT+0218 ALT+0250 Type “OPTION+E”, then lowercase or uppercase vowel.
Ü / ü ALT+0220 ALT+0252 Type “OPTION+U” then lowercase /u/ or uppercase /u/
Ñ / ñ ALT+0209 ALT+0241 Type “OPTION+N” then lowercase /u/ or uppercase /u/
¿ / ? ALT+0191 ALT+0191 Type “SHIFT+OPTION+?”
¡ / ! ALT+0161 ALT+0161 Type “RIGHT ALT/OPTION+1”


¿Qué hace usted hoy?
What are you doing today?¿Dónde está la escuela?
Where is the school?

¿Quién es ella?
Who is she?

¿Cómo se escribe su nombre?
How is your name written?

¿Cuándo es el baile?
When is the dance?

¿Por qué está tarde?
Why is he late?

¿Cuántos estudiantes hay?
How many students are there?

¿Cuál es su apellido?
What is your last name?



Quizlet Activity

  • Characters and Accent Marks
  • Direct Link: []
  • Click on the top right-hand corner for Options.
  • Click on the bottom right-hand corner to change Study Mode.