Written Accent Marks (Tildes)
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Tildes and Word Stress
The syllables of a word that are pronounced with the most emphasis, or stress, are called the stressed syllables. Some words may have more than one stressed syllable, though many have just one. If a Spanish word has a tilde, the word stress falls on whatever syllable has the tilde.
Take a look at these examples of Spanish words with tildes and their pronunciation.
If you see a tilde on a Spanish word, it's important to stress the syllable with the tilde. This is often the difference between pronouncing a word like teléfono with great Spanish pronunciation (teh-LEH-foh-noh), instead of English-like pronunciation (TEH-leh-foh-noh).
Tildes and Tenses
Accents are also quite useful for telling what tense a Spanish verb is in. For example, the third person singular (él, ella), and second person formal singular (usted) preterite forms of regular Spanish -ar verbs end in an o with a tilde. The first person singular (yo) present forms of regular Spanish -ar verbs end in an o without a tilde.
That one little tilde can change both the tense and subject of a sentence. For example:
|With a tilde||Mandó una carta.||He/She sent a letter.|
|Without a tilde||Mando una carta.||I send a letter.|
Tildes, Adjectives, and Pronouns
Tildes are also used for marking the difference between certain possessive adjectives and personal pronouns. Check out a few examples of these below.
Tildes and Sentence Types
A tilde on words like qué and cómo can be used to show that someone is asking a question or making an exclamation. The lack of a tilde on such words is often used to show that something is a statement or command. Check out examples of these differences with the words qué and que in the table below.
|Type of Sentence||Spanish||English|
|Question||What is that?|
|Exclamation||That dog's so big!|
|Statement||That's not the shirt I like.|
Tildes and Word Pairs
There are many pairs of words in Spanish whose only spelling difference is the presence or absence of a tilde. Here are just a few.