Spanish Word Stress

Quick Answer

If a Spanish word has a written accent, or tilde, the word stress falls on whatever syllable has the tilde.

For example:

  • compré (kohm-PREH)
  • árbol (AHR-bohl)

Diving Deeper

Knowing where to put the stress on a word in Spanish is the difference between pronouncing a word like computadora with great Spanish pronunciation (kohm-poo-tah-DOH-rah), instead of Englishy pronunciation (kohm-POO-tah-doh-rah).

There are four main categories of words you'll come across when talking about Spanish word stress: palabras agudas, palabras llanas (also called palabras graves), palabras esdrújulas, and palabras sobresdrújulas. Let's take a closer look at each one.

Palabras Agudas

Las palabras agudas are words that are stressed on the last syllable.

Pronunciation Tip

If a word ends in a consonant other than s or n and the word does not have a tilde anywhere, the word is a palabra aguda.

Las palabras agudas have a tilde, on the final syllable to mark word stress if the last letter in the word is a vowel or the consonants s or n.

SpanishPronunciation
azul
ah-SOOL
avestruz
ah-be-STROOS
matador
mah-tah-DOHR
hablar
ah-BLAHR
estoy
eh-STOI
inglés
een-GLEHS
colibrí
koh-lee-BREE
balcón
bahl-KOHN

Palabras Graves (Llanas)

Las palabras graves, also called palabras llanas, are words that are stressed on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable.

Pronunciation Tip

If a word ends in a vowel, s, or n and does not have a tilde anywhere, the word is a palabra grave.

Las palabras graves have a written accent on the second-to-last syllable to mark word stress in words that end in any consonant other than s or n and in groups of consonants like ps and cs.

SpanishPronunciation
mono
MOH-noh
ave
AH-beh
cantan
KAHN-tahn
computadora
kohm-poo-tah-DOH-rah
árbol
AHR-bohl
álbum
AHL-boom
bíceps
BEE-sehps

Palabras Esdrújulas

Las palabras esdrújulas are words that are stressed on the antepenultimate (third-to-last) syllable.

Pronunciation Tip

These words always have a written accent on the stressed syllable.

SpanishPronunciation
rápido
RAH-pee-doh
pájaro
PAH-hah-roh
América
ah-MEH-ree-kah
clásico
CLAH-see-koh
teléfono
teh-LEH-foh-noh

Palabras Sobresdrújulas

Las palabras sobresdrújulas are words that are stressed on the fourth-to-last, fifth-to-last, or sixth-to-last syllable.

Pronunciation Tip

These words always have a written accent on the stressed syllable.

For the most part, only words that are made up of a verb form and two or more pronoun forms are palabras sobresdrújulas.

SpanishPronunciation
cómpramelo
COHM-prah-meh-loh
préstaselo
PREHS-tah-seh-loh
enséñenoslo
ehn-SEH-nyeh-nohs-loh
devuélvemelo
deh-BWEHL-beh-meh-loh

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