Monday, 19 November 2012

Tell Me, Do You Write 'tu' With An Accent?


This post deals with words which have alternative spellings. A graphic accent is used in Spanish mainly to indicate the stressed syllable in a word. However, in some cases, the graphic accent is used to identify specific meanings of a word. One such word is “tu”, which may also be spelled “” (with a graphic accent). This post deals with how to choose between the alternative spellings, “tu” or “”.


Imagine you are talking to a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you are both studying Spanish together. The other person wants to establish the correct spelling of a Spanish word and says to you: "tell me, do you write “tu” with an accent?"

In Spanish, the other person could choose to be less formal and say:
Dime, ¿la palabra “tu” lleva tilde?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say:
Dígame, ¿la palabra “tu” lleva tilde?


The question is an invitation for you to state the spelling of a word in Spanish. When you say how you would spell a word, you DO NOT need to be concerned about the level of formality in the other person's question.

In this case, the word “tu” may be spelled both ways (with/ without an accent). Perhaps you want to say:
  • ” lleva tilde cuando es pronombre personal* (“” is spelled with an accent when it is a personal pronoun), e.g.:
    • hablas español (you speak Spanish)
    • eres periodista, ¿no? (you are a journalist, are you not?)

  • Tuno lleva tilde cuando se trate de un adjetivo* (“tu” should be spelled without an accent when it is an adjective), e.g.:
    • Tu hermano (your brother)
    • Tu hermana (your sister)

Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:

Dime, ¿la palabra “tu” lleva tilde?

*Please see grammar below

Grammar-Diacritical Accent
A graphic accent used to differentiate or alter the meaning of a word is often referred to as a diacritical accent. In Spanish, there are some words -usually monosyllables, which have their meaning changed by the use of a graphic accent. The following Spanish words have different meanings depending on whether written/ spelled with or without an accent:

1. Aun/ Aún

We spell aun” without the accent when it corresponds to English linker expressions such as even so, even when, despite that or similar, e.g.:
  • Aun así perdimos el vuelo (even so we missed the flight)
  • Aun cuando no teníamos nada éramos felices (even when we had nothing we were happy)

We spell “aún” (with the accent) when it corresponds to English expressions such as still/ still not/ not yet, e.g.:
  • Pedro aún está enfermo (Pedro is still ill)
  • A las diez aún no habiamos llegado (at ten o'clock we still had not arrived)


We could also say that we spell “aún” (with the accent) when it can be replaced by “todavía”. Otherwise, it should be spelled “aun” (without the accent).

2. De/ Dé

We spell “” (with the accent) when it is a form of the verb “dar” (to give)., e.g.:
  •  gracias a Dios (give thanks to God)
  • Haz lo que te  la gana (do whatever you want)
  •  recuerdos a su hermano de mi parte (give my regards to your brother)

We spell de” without the accent for all other meaninings, outwith the above e.g.:
  • La casa de mis padres (my parents' house)
  • El café es de Colombia (the coffee is from Colombia)
  • El vino es de buena calidad (the wine is of a good quality)
  • La letra “de (the letter/ character “d”)

3. El/ Él

We spell el” without the accent when it is the masculine/ singular form of the definite article the, e.g.:
  • El perro (the dog)
  • El teléfono (the phone)
  • El vino (the wine)

We spell “él” (with the accent) when it is either the subject personal pronoun he or the object personal pronoun him, e.g.:
  • Él escribió esa carta (he wrote that letter)
  • El perro le mordió a él (the dog bit him)

4. Mas/ Más

We spell mas” without the accent when it is the co-ordinating conjunction but, e.g.:
  • Queríamos salir mas empezó a llover (we were going to go out but it started raining)
  • La casa es bonita mas pequeña (the house is nice but small)

We spell “más” (with the accent) when it means moreplusthe most/ etc., e.g.:
  • Más o menos (more or less)
  • Necesito más dinero (I need more money)
  • Pedro es más alto que Antonio (Pedro is taller than Antonio)
  • Eso cuesta más de diez dólares (that costs more than US$10)
  • Dos más dos son cuatro (two plus two are four)
  • Pedro es el más alto de la clase (Pedro is the tallest in the class)

5. Mi/ Mí

We spell mi” without the accent when it is the possessive my, e.g.:
  • Mi perro (my dog)
  • Mi teléfono móvil (my mobile phone)
  • Mi casa (my house)

We also spell mi” without the accent when it is the musical note E (mi), e.g.:
  • Mi bemol (E flat)
  • En mi mayor (in E major)

We also spell mi” without the accent when it is the Greek alphabet character M/µ, e.g.:
  • La letra griega mi (the Greek letter mu/ µ)

We spell “” (with the accent) when it is the pronoun me, e.g.:
  •  me gusta el pescado (I like fish)
  • Pedro me escribió esa carta a  (Pedro wrote that letter to me)
  • El mensaje es para  (the message is for me)

6. Se/ Sé

We spell se” without the accent when it is a personal pronoun, e.g.:
  • Ese señor se llama Antonio (that gentleman's name is Antonio)
  • Aquí se habla español (Spanish is spoken here)

We spell “” (with the accent) when it is a form of the present tense of the verb “saber” (to know), e.g.:
  •  que me has llamado (I know you have called me)
  • No  que hacer (I don't know what to do)

We also spell “” (with the accent) when it is a form of the imperative* of the verb “ser” (to be), e.g.:
  •  bueno (be good – said to one male)
  •  buena (be good – said to one female)


*Please note that this form is only to be used in imperative affirmative sentences.

7. Si/ Sí

We spell si” without the accent when it is the conjunction if, e.g.:
  • Si lo prefieres, no vamos (if you prefer it, we won't go);

We also spell si” without the accent when it is the name of the musical note B (ti), e.g.:
  • Si bemol (B flat)
  • En si mayor (in B major)

We spell “” (with the accent) when it is the affirmative expression yes, e.g.:
  • Dime que  (say yes to me)

We also spell “” (with the accent) when it is a form of a reflexive pronoun preceded by a preposition*, e.g.:
  • Eso se dijo Pedro para  (Pedro said that to himself)


*Please note that when the preposition “con” precedes that reflexive pronoun “”, the special form “consigo” is used. The form “consigo” is often followed by “mismo”, e.g.:
  • Antonio no haría eso consigo mismo (Antonio would not do that to/ with himself)

8. Solo/ Sólo

We spell solo* without the accent when it is the adjective alone, e.g.:
  • Pedro estaba solo (Pedro was alone)
  • Ana estaba sola (Ana was alone)

We spell “sólo” (with the accent) when it is the adverb only, e.g.:
  • Pedro sólo sabe el camino (Pedro only knows the way)
  • Ana sólo sabe el camino (Ana only knows the way)
  • Sólo vamos a tomar algo (we are only going for a drink)


*This spelling is now accepted as correct in all cases. However, the accentuated spelling, “sólo” may be used in cases where it would avoid ambiguity.

9. Te/ Té

We spell te” without the accent when it is a personal pronoun you, eg.:
  • Pedro te va a llamar (Pedro is going to call you)
  • ¿Te llamas Antonio? (is your name Antonio?)
  • Te gusta el café (do you like coffee?)

We also spell te” without the accent when it is the name of the consonant “t”, eg.:
  • La letra te es una consonante (the letter “t” is a consonant)

We spell “” (with the accent) when it is Spanish word for tea, e.g.:
  • ¿Te gusta el  (do you like tea?);
  • En Inglaterra se toma mucho  (a lot of tea is drunk in England)

10. Tu/ Tú

We spell tu” without the accent when it is the possessive adjective your which is used when preceding a noun, e.g.:
  • Tu perro (your dog)
  • Tu teléfono móvil (your mobile phone)
  • Tu casa (your home)

We spell “” (with the accent) when it is the subject personal pronoun you, e.g.:
  • ¿Escribiste  esa carta? (did you write that letter?)
  •  sabrás que hacer (you will know what to do)

Now you should practise the use of the diacritical accent with some examples of your own.

Spanish lessons online
Skype/ Google+ Hangout/ Facetime
Great lessons
© Copyright 2012 by Jose M González. All Rights Reserved.
Post a Comment