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7 One-Syllable Words That Break the Accent Rule

Generally speaking, one-syllable words in Spanish don't need a graphic accent (tilde) even if they are tonic (words that are stressed when pronounced). Some examples of tonic one-syllable words include the following nouns:

 

sal (salt)

mar (sea)

mes (month)

fe (faith)

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Besides nouns, there are several one-syllable words that come from the conjugations of some verbs. Just as the nouns we mentioned before, these words don't need a graphic accent either. Let's see some examples:

 

Él los vio a los ladrones.

He saw the thieves.

¿Usted vio a los ladrones?

Did you see the thieves?

Captions 16-17, Yago - 6 Mentiras

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No sabemos si fue el lunes o si fue el martes.

We don't know if it was on Monday or it was on Tuesday.

Caption 5, El Aula Azul - Dos historias

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With that being said, there are some important exceptions of one-syllable words in Spanish that do need a graphic accent. This kind of accent is called in Spanish tilde diacrítica and we use it to avoid confusion between one-syllable words that have the same spelling but different meanings. Let's take a look.

 

1. él vs. el

Personal pronoun

 

Los niños y los adultos se ríen mucho con él.

Kids and adults laugh a lot with him.

Caption 54, El Aula Azul - Las Profesiones

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Definitive article

 

Tenemos los hombros y después tenemos el brazo.

We have the shoulders and then we have the arm.

Captions 8-9, Marta de Madrid - El cuerpo - El tronco

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2. más vs. mas

Except when it acts as a conjunction of contrast (just like the word pero [but]), the one-syllable word más always has a graphic accent.

 

Empecé más o menos a los diecisiete años a tocar instrumentos

I started to play instruments at about seventeen years old

y a cantar a un nivel más avanzado.

and to sing at a more advanced level.

Captions 18-19, Cleer - Entrevista con Jacky

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3. mí vs. mi

When it works as a personal pronoun, you need to put the graphic accent.

  

Pueden confiar en .

You can trust me.

Caption 11, Guillermina y Candelario - Mi Primer Tesoro

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However, when it works as a possessive adjective, it doesn't need a graphic accent.

 

En mi barrio hay una farmacia.

In my neighborhood there is a pharmacy.

Caption 4, El Aula Azul - Mi Barrio

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4. sé vs. se

Form of the verbs ser (to be) and saber (to know)

 

Que sí, mamá, que ya que siempre se olvida de mi cumpleaños.

Yes, Mom, I know that he always forgets my birthday.

Caption 1, Cortometraje - Beta

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Personal pronoun and reflexive

 

El martes se me perdieron las llaves de casa.

On Tuesday, my house keys got lost.

Caption 14, El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos: El pronombre "se"

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Ella no quería acostarse con Ivo Di Carlo.

She didn't want to sleep with Ivo Di Carlo.

Caption 61, Muñeca Brava - 48 - Soluciones

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5. sí vs. si

Reflexive pronoun and adverb of affirmation

 

, vine porque Aldo me había hecho una propuesta.

Yes, I came because Aldo had made a suggestion.

Caption 3, Yago - 14 La peruana

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Conditional conjunction

 

Si me dejan en la calle me arreglo

If they leave me on the street I manage

Caption 2, Jorge Celedón, Vicentico - Si Me Dejan

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6. té vs. te

Noun

 

¿Quién no se despierta con una taza de café o de un buen ?

Who doesn't wake up with a cup of coffee or good tea?

Caption 39, Aprendiendo con Karen - Utensilios de cocina

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Personal pronoun and reflexive

 

La que yo guardo donde te escribí, que te sueño y que te quiero tanto

The one I keep where I wrote to you, that I dream of you and that I love you so much

Caption 9, Carlos Vives, Shakira - La Bicicleta

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7. tú vs. tu

Personal pronoun

 

Rachel, ¿qué quieres ?

Rachel, what do you want?

Caption 2, Clase Aula Azul - Pedir deseos

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Possessive adjective

 

Para tu salud, tan importante para tu estilo de vida...

For your health, as important for your lifestyle...

Caption 52, Natalia de Ecuador - Alimentos para el desayuno

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That's it for today. We encourage you to learn all these one-syllable words as they are used quite often in Spanish. If you master them, you will be able to avoid common writing mistakes. If you have any comments or questions, please don't hesitate to contact us

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To Be Honest & Avoid Being a Chump

Let's keep learning interesting Spanish expressions. Our always-growing catalog of Spanish videos contains many examples that will definitely help you boost your conversational skills.
 

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Mili, the main character of the Argentinian telenovela Muñeca Brava, continues to be a never-ending source of colloquial expressions. In the following example, she gives us the Spanish equivalent of the expression "to call a spade a spade," which in Spanish has a very eucharistical nature:

¡Al pan, pan y al vino, vino, doña!

To call a spade a spade, Ma'am! [literally: to call bread "bread" and wine "wine"]

Caption 55, Muñeca Brava - 8 Trampas - Part 4

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Indeed, Mili siempre llama al pan, pan y al vino, vino (Mili always calls a spade a spade), because Mili es muy directa para hablar (Mili is very direct). Mexican folks would also say that Mili es muy claridosa (Mili is very plain-spoken, or blunt), a word that comes from the adjective claro (clear). Wouldn't you agree with Spanish speakers who would also say that Mili is not the type of person that esquiva el bulto (literally, “goes around the bundle”)? Depending on the context, this expression may be translated  as "to beat around the bush" or even "to dodge the bullet”:

Al contrario, vos estás esquivando acá el bulto para no pagarme a mí...

On the contrary, you are trying to dodge the bullet to avoid paying me...

Caption 49, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 2

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Also equivalent are the Spanish expressions sacar la vuelta (to go around, to evade), hacer rodeos or andar con rodeos (to make detours):

Dime la verdad, no le saques la vuelta
Tell me the truth, don't beat around the bush.
 
Desde entonces, Lucía siempre me saca la vuelta.
Since then, Lucia is always evading me.

Está bien, Sor Cachetes, déjese de rodeos. Dígame, ¿qué, qué es lo que pasa?

All right, Sister Cheeks, stop beating about the bush. Tell me, what, what's going on?

Captions 44-45, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 7

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Quiero andarme sin rodeos Confesarte que una tarde empecé a morir por ti

I want to go without detours [to be straightfoward] To confess to you that one afternoon I began to die for you

Captions 16-17, Amaia Montero - Quiero Ser

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Going back to Mili's personality, another useful expression to describe the way she speaks would be ir al grano (to get straight to the point). When someone is wasting your time with a long chat, you can say ¡Ve al grano! (Get to the point!) Of course, you can also do as Mili does and omit the verb ir (to go):

Bueno, vamos. Al grano que quiero dormir mi siesta. ¿Qué venías a pedirme?

Well, let's go. Straight to the point as I want to take my nap. What did you want to ask me?

Captions 66-68, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 7

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Another similar expression is ir al meollo del asunto or ir al meollo de la cuestión, which means “to get to the nub of the issue,” “to get straight to the point.” The word meollo is definitely a keeper. It means the central core of something, and comes from the latin medulla (marrow):

Bueno, el meollo de la cuestión.

Well, the point of the matter.

Caption 11, Muñeca Brava - 18 - La Apuesta - Part 9

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There are many virtues and benefits associated with being as direct as Mili is. People like her are usually honest and not prone to telling lies or cheating. Speaking of which, you may have heard the expression dar gato por liebre (to try to deceive; literally, “to give a cat instead of a hare”). A somewhat close English expression is “to be sold a pig in a poke,” which is not very common, anyway.

Gato por liebre. -Exactamente.

A cat for a hare [you think you're getting one thing but it's another]. -Exactly.

Caption 50, Factor Fobia Cucarachas - Part 1

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This expression is very common in Spanish, so you may want a more contextualized example:
 
No quieras darme gato por liebre / Don't try to deceive me.
 

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Another similar expression is tomar el pelo (to try to trick someone).The expression dar gato por liebre would be more suitable in the context of a real scam someone is trying to pull. On the other hand, tomar el pelo is more likely used in the context of a joke. In that sense it's similar to the English expression "to pull someone's leg." Here are two examples:

¿Ustedes dos me están tomando el pelo a mí?

Are you two pulling my leg [literally "pulling my hair"]?

Caption 30, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 7

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¿Qué tango, me estás tomando el pelo? Yo no escucho ningún tango.

What tango, are you pulling my leg [literally: Are you pulling my hair]? I don't hear any tango.

Captions 46-47, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 3

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Expressions

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