Spanish Accents: what are they + 3 tips on how to type Spanish accent marks

Mastering the fined little details of pronunciation and writing in a new language could be your doorway to being look at on as a fluent, native speaker. Spanish is full of these fine little details and Spanish accent marks are one such nuance that can change the meaning of words + are essential for proper communication. Learn about Spanish accent marks in this Spring Spanish (a project I co-founded) video brought to you by Mariana:

In this blog post, you’ll not only learn what Spanish accents are but also how to use them both in writing and in real-life conversations. We’ll explore the accent marks and share practical tips on how to type Spanish accents on different devices – to us, it doesn’t matter if you’re on your smartphone or on a PC, we’re here to help!

1. What are Spanish Accents?

Effortless Answers

Spanish accents, or “tildes” as they are called in Spanish, are diacritical marks used above vowels to indicate stress or to distinguish between homonyms—words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.

Their correct use is really important because they can actually change the meaning of a word.

Let’s immediately take a look at some Spanish words with and without accents and how their meanings differ:

Spanish words with and without accents

Without AccentWith AccentMeaning Without AccentMeaning With Accent
comocómo“like” or “as”“how” or “what”
si“if”“yes”
elél“the” (masculine)“he” or “him”
masmás“but”“more”
tu“your” (singular)“you” (singular)

Do you see it? In some cases, it really does matter when you want “more” of something and you accidentally say “but” instead. Let’s say, you want more from Effortless Conversations – like a Spanish Conversation Based Chunking Starter Pack, with essential phrases and chunks that’ll help you have fluent sentences roll off the tongues in conversations with Spanish native speakers. Sign up now and don’t come up with “but” and “whys”! It’s your chance to learn more Spanish easily.

2. Using the diaeresis in Spanish writing

The diaeresis, denoted as ¨ (two dots) above a vowel, is a punctuation mark used in Spanish writing to indicate that the vowel should be pronounced separately from the one preceding it. It is most commonly seen above the letter “u” in “gue” and “gui” sequences, where the “u” would typically be silent. Simply put, the “u” is vocalized with diaeresis.

Listen to the difference between these two phrases meaning “shame”:

  • verguenza” – sounds like ver-gen-za
  • vergüenza” – sounds like ver-güen-za

Did you notice it?

Now, let’s take a look at these examples where we put everything in context:

Spanish SentenceEnglish Translation
La antigüedad de este templo es impresionante.The antiquity of this temple is impressive.
La cigüeña trajo un bebé al nido.The stork brought a baby to the nest.
La abuela consideró el arcoíris un buen agüero.Grandmother considered the rainbow a good omen.
Perdí la lengüeta de mi zapato.I lost the tongue of my shoe.
Estudio lingüística porque me encantan los idiomas.I study linguistics because I love languages.

3. Pay attention to the correct punctuation: the tilde

In Spanish, the tilde is a small squiggly line above a letter, and it’s used over the letter “n” to form the letter “ñ.” This consonant has a unique sound that is not found in English, roughly equivalent to the “ny” in “canyon.”

Examples of words with “ñ”

Spanish WordMeaning in English
BañoBathroom
SeñorMister, sir
CañaReed, cane
PequeñoSmall, little
SeñalSign, signal
DueñoOwner
ArañaSpider
MañanaMorning, tomorrow
SeñoritaMiss
CampañaCampaign

Ñ is pronounced as a palatal nasal sound in Spanish.

4. Use acute accents on every vowel

The acute accent (´) is another common accent mark in Spanish, which indicates stress on a particular vowel and can also differentiate between homographs.

This mark is used on all vowels: á, é, í, ó, ú.

Check these examples and the explanation on where you have to put the stress!

Spanish WordMeaning in EnglishExplanation
TeléfonoTelephoneThe accent on the “e” indicates that the stress is on the second syllable: te--fono.
ÁrbolTreeThe accent on the “á” indicates that the stress is on the first syllable: Ár-bol.
CanciónSongThe accent on the “ó” indicates that the stress is on the penultimate syllable: can-ción.
DifícilDifficultThe accent on the “í” indicates that the stress is on the second syllable: di--cil.
MenúMenuThe accent on the “ú” indicates that the stress is on the last syllable: me-.

5. How to type Spanish accent marks on a PC

To type Spanish accents on a PC, you can set your keyboard to a Spanish layout through your control panel, or use keyboard shortcuts.

spanish accents on a windows pc in a home office setting

Keyboard shortcuts for Windows

To change your default keyboard layout on Windows, follow these expert technical steps:

  1. Go to your control panel.
  2. Click on “Clock, Language, and Region”.
  3. Click on “Region and Language”.
  4. Click on the “Keyboards and Languages” tab.
  5. Click on “Change keyboards”.
  6. Click “Add”.
  7. Scroll down to “Spanish (Mexico)” or “Spanish (Spain)” etc., expand the tab and check “Spanish”.
  8. Click “OK” and “Apply”.

Alternatively, you can use the following Alt codes to type Spanish accents. Hold down the “ALT” key and type the number on the number pad on the right side of your keyboard.

For lowercase letters:

CharacterAlt Code
áAlt+0225
éAlt+0233
íAlt+0237
óAlt+0243
úAlt+0250
ñAlt+0241
üAlt+0252
¿Alt+0191
¡Alt+0161

For uppercase accents, use the following:

CharacterAlt Code
ÁAlt+0193
ÉAlt+0201
ÍAlt+0205
ÓAlt+0211
ÚAlt+0218
ÑAlt+0209
ÜAlt+0220

These codes ONLY work when you use them with the numeric keypad, not the regular number keys on your keyboard. The numeric keypad is usually found on the right side of your keyboard or attached separately to a computer. And be sure to keep holding down the “ALT” key the entire time.

Spanish-international sort keyboard layout on Mac

For Mac users, it’s even simpler! Hold down the “Option” key while pressing the “e” key, then release and type the vowel you want accented.

So, to add an accent on ‘a’, you’d press Option + e, then release and type ‘a’ to get ‘á’. The same method applies to e, i, o, and u to form ‘é’, ‘í’, ‘ó’, and ‘ú’ respectively.
To produce a lowercase ‘n’ with a tilde over it or ‘ñ’, simply hold down the Option key and type ‘n’. Release the keys and type ‘n’ again.
For an inverted question mark “¿”, hold down “shift” and “option” keys, then press the “?” key. For an inverted exclamation mark “¡”, hold down “option” and “1”.

6. How to write Spanish letters and Spanish words on a smartphone?

Smartphones make typing Spanish letters and words easy. In most cases, you can long-press the vowel keys to see additional accented options. By sliding your finger over to the desired accent mark and releasing, you can type the letter with the correct punctuation.

spanish accents  can be entered on a smartphone

If your smartphone doesn’t have this feature, you can also install a Spanish keyboard to have all the Spanish characters at your fingertips. To do this, go to the settings section of your phone and look for the “Language & Input” section. There, you can add a new keyboard and choose the Spanish option.

7. Learn more about accents in Spanish with Conversation Based Chunking

Understanding and using Spanish accent marks is an integral part of mastering the language. To further enhance your skills, you can try the Conversation Based Chunking method, which involves learning language in the context of real-life conversations. This method can help you become more familiar with how and when to use accent marks in Spanish.

Spanish accents are useful for proper spelling, pronunciation, and can be the key in making sure your message is understood.

Remember!

Practice makes perfect, so start incorporating these tips into your Spanish writing and speaking endeavors. Whether on a PC, smartphone, or in conversation, mastering Spanish accent marks will undoubtedly benefit your language journey.

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