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Grammar - The Importance of Accent Marks
Can you translate the word 'potato' from English to Spanish?

Grammar - The Importance of Accent Marks

This Spanish Easy Review grammar quiz deals with the importance of accent marks. In English we have many words that are spelled the same but have different meanings such as 'row'. A row could mean the lining up of things such as a row of chairs. Row could also be an action verb such as to row a boat. Words that are spelled the same but have different meanings are known as homonyms. The only way we can tell if a word has a different meaning is how that word is used in the context of a sentence.

Spanish also has many words that are spelled the same but they each possess a slight difference over the other.

That difference is the accent mark that is placed over a vowel. Not only does the accent mark change the meaning of the word but it also changes how the word is pronounced. Vowels that have accent marks have a slightly stronger sound than those that do not. Because accent marks completely change a word's meaning, it is important to train your eyes to pick up the accent marks, as well as train the ears to hear the different emphasis placed on the accented vowel. Let's look at one example.

In Spanish, when you see the word si it means if. Now, let’s place an accent mark above the 'i' in si so that now you get sí. Notice that the mark above the 'i' is not a dot but is rather a little line that slants slightly towards the right. On some vowels the accent mark is easy to pick out but when it is over the 'i' it will take a little more eye training to quickly pick it up. The Spanish word with the accented 'i', sí means yes. That little accent mark makes a huge difference in the meaning of the word.

Here is a list of some Spanish words that are spelled the same but one has an accent mark. See how the accent mark changes the meaning of the word.

Spanish English
baile (a) dance
bailé I danced
como I eat
cómo How?
el the (masculine)
él he
estas these
estás you are (familiar)
esta this
está you/he/she is
mas but
más more
mi my
me
papa potato / Pope
papá dad / daddy
que that
qué What?
solo alone
sólo only
termino I finish
término (a) term
tu your
you (familiar)
una one (feminine)
uña fingernail

Study each Spanish word carefully. Pay close attention to the spelling of each word and where the accent mark is placed, if there is an accent mark. Then move on to the quiz. There are ten words that are given. For each word, you will need to locate the correct Spanish word and spelling, including any accent mark. Challenge yourself to take the quiz without looking back at this introduction.

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1.
yes
se
si
The Spanish word for yes is sí. The first answer means himself/herself/itself. The last answer means I know. The third answer means if but the second answer means yes.
2.
(a) term
término
términa
termino
termina
The Spanish word for (a) term is término and it is a masculine word. The second answer shows term as a feminine word which is not correct. The third answer means I end or I terminate and the last answer means you/he/she terminates. The first answer, however, means term.
3.
I danced
baíle
baile
bailé
báile
The second answer is the Spanish word for a dance so it is not the correct translation. Rather, the Spanish word for I danced is bailé with the accent mark on the ending 'e'.
4.
How?
cóma
como
comó
cómo
The second answer is Spanish for I eat. The Spanish word for how, however, is cómo.
5.
Your
tu
su
The last answer means his/her/its so it is not what you are looking for here. The first answer shows a wrong accent mark being used so it, too, is not correct. The second answer means 'you' singular familiar and, again, it is not what we are looking for. That leaves the third answer which is the correct Spanish translation of your.
6.
fingernail
una
uña
uno
uño
The first and third answers show the feminine and masculine form of the word one. The word you are looking for is fingernail so you can now eliminate those two answers. The Spanish word for fingernail is uña.
7.
only
sólo
sóllo
soló
solo
The last answer is the Spanish word for alone which means that it is not the answer we need here. The Spanish word for only is sólo. The second answer has mistakenly added a second 'l' making the spelling wrong. The third answer has the accent mark on the wrong 'o' but the first answer shows the correct Spanish translation for only.
8.
What?
que
qúe
quá
qué
The first answer is the Spanish word for that so it is not the correct answer. The Spanish word for what is qué. The second answer has the accent mark on the wrong vowel and the third answer has spelled the word wrong. The last answer, however, shows the correct Spanish translation for the word what.
9.
potato
papá
pápa
papa
pápá
The first answer is the Spanish word for dad or daddy so it is not what we are looking for here. The Spanish word for potato is papa. The second and last answers show the incorrect use of the accent mark with the word. The third answer, however, is the correct word for potato as this Spanish word does not have any accent mark.
10.
my
mi
me
The last answer means me so it is not the correct answer. The Spanish word for my is mi. The first and third answers show incorrect translations for my which means that the second answer is the correct Spanish translation for my.
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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