Society & Culture & Entertainment Languages

5 Reasons for Using Accent Marks in Spanish

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A number of words are accented when they are used in a question (including an indirect question) or exclamation, but they aren't otherwise accented. Such words are listed below:
  • ¿Adónde? Where (to)?
  • ¿Adónde vas? Where are you going?
  • ¿Cómo? How?
  • ¿Cómo estás? How are you?
  • ¿Cuál?¿Cuáles? Which one? Which ones?
  • ¿Cuál es más caro? Which one is more expensive?
  • ¿Cuándo? When? ¿Cuándo sales? When are you leaving?

  • ¿Cuánto?¿Cuánta?¿Cuántos?¿Cuántas? How much? How many? ¿Cuántos pesos cuesta el libro? How many pesos does the book cost?
  • ¿Dónde? Where? ¿De dónde es usted? Where are you from?
  • ¿Por qué? Why? ¿Por qué vas? Why are you going?
  • ¿Qué? What? Which? ¿Qué libro prefieres? What book do you prefer?
  • ¿Quién? ¿Quienes? Who? Whom? ¿Quiénes quieren mi libro? Who wants my book?

Generally, if these words are not used in an exclamation or question, don't use an accent: el libro que he leído, the book that I read; nadar como un pez, to swim like a fish. Note that when not used in a question, porque, meaning "because," is usually one word: Fui a la fiesta porque estaba aburrido, I went to the party because I was bored.

"Ó" between numerals:

When the conjunction o (meaning "or") is used between numbers that aren't spelled out, it is often accented to avoid confusion with the 0 (zero). The accent is not mandatory. Tengo cinco o seis radios, I have five or six radios. Tengo 5 ó 6 radios, I have 5 or 6 radios.


The umlaut (or dieresis) is used above the u when the u is sounded in the combinations of güi or güe. Without the umlaut, known as la diéresis or la crema in Spanish, the u would be silent, serving only to indicate that the g is pronounced as a hard g rather than similar to the j. (For example, guey with no umlaut would sound something like "gay.") Among the words with umlauts are vergüenza, shame; cigüeña, stork or crank; pingüino, penguin; and agüero, prediction.

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