Rules for Stressing Syllables

Many Spanish words are formed by placing stress on a syllable. Stressing a syllable means pronouncing that syllable louder than the other syllables in the word. Changing the stress of a syllable can change the entire meaning of a word. For example, "papá", with the stress added to the second sylable (as indicated by the accent), means "father". On the other hand, "papa", with stress on the first syllable, means "potato". Below we'll review the rules for stress – that is, knowing how to determine which syllable to pronounce the loudest.

Rule 1 - When a word ends in a vowel, "n" or "s", the next to last syllable is stressed.
shoes
zapatos
origen
origen
exam
examen
I buy
compro
this
esta
nothing
nada
peak
pico


Rule 2 - When a word ends in a consonant (with the exception of "n" or "s"), the stress is placed on the last syllable.
to want
querer
city
ciudad
hotel
hotel
doctor
doctor
to run
correr
care
cuidado
to help
ayudar


Rule 3 - A written accent is used to indicate that a syllable is stressed when rules 1 and 2 above are not followed.
you are crazy
estás loco
he is
es
I will buy
compra
he bought
él compró
he walked
él cami
song
canción
you will see
verás


Rule 4 - Sometimes words are spelled and pronounced the same, but have different meanings. In these cases, an accent is used to differentiate between the two meanings, as shown below.
yes
if
si
Yes, I will go with you if you buy me a ticket.
, iré contigo si me compras un boleto.


he
él
the
el
He likes the car a lot.
Él le gusta el coche mucho.


my
mi
me
My house was designed especially for me.
Mi casa fue diseñada especialmente para .


your
tu
you
Do you want to know where your cell phone is?
¿ quieres saber donde está tu celular?


more
más
but
mas
I want more pizza, but I have a stomach ache.
Quiero más pizza, mas tengo dolor de estómago.


still; yet
aún
even
aun
Even after eating everything in sight, I was still hungry.
Aun después de comer todo a la vista, aún tenía hambre.


how; what
cómo
like; as
como
What is her name? She is as pretty as you.
¿Cómo se llama ella? Es tan bonita como tú.