What a difference an accent makes! Did you know that the meanings of several Spanish words vary depending upon whether or not they have a written accent? Today, we'll learn ten such pairs of words, providing examples of each in context. Are you ready?!
The adverb aun in Spanish, without an accent, is the equivalent of the English word "even":
Aun así, me hubiera gustado tener algo más de luz.
Even so, I'd have liked to have had a bit more light.
Caption 63, Viajando con Fermín La Cueva de Nerja - Part 2Play Caption
The adverb aún, on the other hand, with an accent, means "yet" or "still" in Spanish:
Aún no tengo hijos, eh...
I don't have kids yet, um...
Caption 29, La Sub30 Familias - Part 9Play Caption
The preposition de in Spanish is an extremely common word that can mean "of" or "from":
Yo soy de Barcelona, nací aquí,
I'm from Barcelona, I was born here,Play Caption
The word dé with an accent, however, is a conjugated form of the verb dar (to give) in Spanish. It could be either the present subjunctive form that corresponds to the subject pronouns él (he), ella (she), or usted (formal "you") or the formal imperative. Let's look at an example of each:
que me dé una explicación.
for him to give me an explanation.
Caption 60, Yago 13 La verdad - Part 5Play Caption
Démela, no se va a dar cuenta.
Give it to me, she won't realize.
Caption 42, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 7 - Part 2Play Caption
Without an accent, esta is the singular feminine demonstrative adjective that means "this":
Esta pasión empezó cuando yo era muy pequeña
This passion started when I was really little,
Caption 5, Adriana La lecturaPlay Caption
With an accent, está is the third person singular and formal second person singular conjugation of the verb estar (to be).
y el mar está muy agitado.
and the sea is very choppy.
Caption 40, Aprendiendo con Silvia Las emociones - Part 8Play Caption
The word el in Spanish is the masculine singular definite article that means "the":
En el parque hay árboles,
At the park there are trees,
Caption 15, El Aula Azul Mi BarrioPlay Caption
Él with an accent is a subject pronoun that means "he" or "it":
Él tiene una responsabilidad con ustedes,
He has a responsibility to you guys,
Caption 41, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 13 - Part 4Play Caption
The Spanish word mas without an accent is a conjunction that is used similarly to the word pero in Spanish and also means "but":
"Te dije que me hicieras caso, mas no escuchaste".
"I told you to pay attention to me, but you didn't listen."
Caption 21, Aprendiendo con Priscilla La palabra "más"Play Caption
Meanwhile, the word más with an accent is the Spanish equivalent of the word "more":
"Necesito comprar más carros".
"I need to buy more cars."
Caption 15, Aprendiendo con Priscilla La palabra "más"Play Caption
For more on the difference between these two words, take a look the video from which these two examples were taken: Aprendiendo con Priscilla- La palabra "más."
The non-accented word mi in Spanish is a short form possessive adjective that means "my" when referring to singular nouns:
Mi casa es pequeña.
My house is small.
Caption 10, Ariana Mi CasaPlay Caption
Para mí, el mejor jugador de fútbol es Leo Messi.
For me, the best soccer player is Leo Messi.Play Caption
The pronoun se in Spanish has many uses, including in impersonal and passive se constructions, in the no fault construction, to say "each other" in phrases like se abrazaron (they hugged each other), and as the reflexive pronoun that accompanies reflexive verbs with él, ella, usted, and ustedes. The following example includes se in both an impersonal and a reflexive construction.
y, como se dice en España: "Hay que saberse bañar
and, as they say in Spain: "You have to know how to bathe yourself
Caption 77, Soledad AmistadesPlay Caption
The accented version of the word sé is the first person conjugation of the verb saber (to know) in the present indicative:
yo sé que Ríos está aquí, hermano.
I know that Rios is here, brother.Play Caption
Si without an accent in Spanish means "if":
Si vienes, entonces te invito a comer.
If you come, then I'll treat you to a meal.
Caption 22, Ana Carolina CondicionalesPlay Caption
And, as you surely already know, sí with an accent in Spanish means "yes":
Sí. -Sí, señor.
Yes. -Yes, sir.
Caption 94, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 1Play Caption
Carolina sums up this difference well:
Entonces, "sí" es una palabra afirmativa cuando queremos algo, mientras que "si" es una palabra condicional.
So, "sí" is an affirmative word when we want something, while "si" is a conditional word.
Captions 38-40, Lecciones con Carolina Haber vs. A Ver / Si vs. SíPlay Caption
Te with no accent can be either a direct or indirect object pronoun or a reflexive pronoun that corresponds to the informal second person singular subject pronoun tú. Let's see it in use as a direct object pronoun:
Te voy a llevar a los mejores restaurantes.
I am going to take you to the best restaurants.
Caption 23, Clara y Cristina Hablan de actividadesPlay Caption
The accented version of té refers to the beverage "tea":
Si querés tomar té tomalo en tu escritorio... -Ah, está bien...
If you want to have tea, have it at your desk... -Oh, OK...
Caption 29, Muñeca Brava 3 Nueva Casa - Part 7Play Caption
Tu (no accent!) is the informal second person singular possessive adjective that means "your":
¿Cómo se llama tu mamá?
What's your mom's name?
Caption 26, Ana Carolina Preguntas básicas con su hijoPlay Caption
As we mentioned previously, tú with an accent is a subject pronoun that informally means "you" in Spanish.
¿Y tú? Que tampoco me has vuelto a llamar.
And you? You haven't called me again either.
Caption 18, Cleer y Lida Conversación telefónica - Part 1Play Caption
That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has clarified the difference between words in Spanish that, while pronounced identically, have different meanings depending upon whether or not they have an accent. Don't hesitate to write us with any questions, suggestions, or comments.