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Palabras Graves: Accent on the Second-to-Last Syllable

In this lesson, we’ll talk about Spanish words that have the accent on the second-to-last syllable. We call these words palabras graves. In a previous lesson, we talked about palabras agudas, which are words with the accent on the last syllable. 

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Before we talk about palabras graves, let’s briefly discuss the meaning of the word “accent” in Spanish.

 

When we pronounce words in Spanish, the accent is the emphasis we give to a particular syllable of a word. We create that emphasis by giving the syllable a greater intensity, a longer duration, or a higher pitch. With that in mind, let’s review the way we categorize words in Spanish, according to their accent:

 

- Palabras agudas (oxytone words) | accent on the last syllable

- Palabras graves (paroxytone words) | accent on the second-to-last syllable

- Palabras esdrújulas (proparoxytone words) | accent on the third-to-last syllable

- Palabras sobresdrújulas (over-proparoxytone words) | accent on any syllable before the third-to-last syllable

 

Now we can focus on palabras graves, which are also known as palabras llanas. Let’s look at a couple of words:

 

Palabras como "lápiz" o "cereza" son palabras graves.

Words like "lápiz" [pencil] or "cereza" [cherry] are paroxytone words.

Caption 33, Carlos explica - Acentuación Cap. 4: Clasificación de las palabras según el acento

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The word lápiz has two syllables (lá | piz) and the accent goes on the second-to-last syllable “lá. Similarly, the word cereza has three syllables (ce | re | za) and the accent also goes on the second-to-last syllable “re.

 

We note that the word lápiz has a graphic accent (tilde) on the “á, while the “e” in the second-to-last syllable of cereza doesn’t have that accent. Why not? It’s because paroxytone words need that graphic accent ONLY if they DO NOT end with “n,” “s,” or a vowel: Cereza ends in a vowel, so we don’t need the tilde.

 

y luego pasa en botella, donde se añade azúcar y eh... levadura.

and then goes into the bottle, where sugar is added and um... yeast.

Caption 26, Feria de Vinos Españoles en Londres - Bodegas Castell D'Age

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The word azúcar has three syllables (a | zú | car) and the accent goes on the second-to-last syllable “zú”. Since this word doesn’t end in “n,” “s” or a vowel, we need to put a tilde on the vowel of the second-to-last syllable.

 

La vida de músico es muy difícil, Kevin, es muy sacrificada.

The musician's life is very difficult, Kevin, it's very demanding.

Caption 16, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 3

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Likewise, the word difícil (di | fí | cil) has the accent on the second-to-last syllable “fí” and we need to put the graphic accent on the “í” since this word ends in a consonant (“l”), which is neither an “n,” an “s” nor a vowel.

 

There are, however, many palabras graves in Spanish that don’t need a graphic accent. Let’s take a look:

 

El lunes, por ejemplo, fui a trabajar.

On Monday for example, I went to work.

Caption 6, El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos: El pasado

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Both lunes ( lu | nes) and ejemplo (e | jem | plo) have the accent on the second-to-last syllable. However, since lunes ends in “s” and ejemplo ends in a vowel, neither word needs the tilde.

 

One last thing: There are many words that are agudas in the singular and graves in the plural. Take a look at the following list (stressed syllable are in boldface):

 

- Organización [organization] | organizaciones [organizations]

- Nación [nation] | naciones [nations]

- Doctor [doctor] | doctores [doctors]

- Pared [wall] | paredes [walls]

 

That's it for now. If you feel like practicing a little bit more, take one of our videos and try to find all the paroxytone words with and without a tilde. And of course, don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions.

 

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Explore more lessons:

Palabras agudas: Stress at the end

Some Unique Words and Expressions

Too Fast? Blame the Sinalefas - Part 1

 

The Preposition a in Spanish

In this lesson, we will discuss a very common and useful preposition. Just like most prepositions, the preposition a in Spanish can be used in various different ways. While we usually think of the preposition a as the English equivalent of to, this preposition can also work as in, on, from, by and at. Let’s take a look.

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Uses of the preposition a in Spanish

To begin with, we use the preposition a to indicate motion to a particular place:

 

Por ejemplo, yo quiero viajar a Noruega la próxima semana…

For example, I want to travel to Norway next week…

Caption 10, Escuela Don Quijote - En el aula

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Llegué a Londres hace tres meses.

I arrived in London three months ago.

Caption 7, Lydia de Barcelona - Lydia y el festival de cine "Women Mujeres"

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We also use the preposition a when we want to connect a main verb with a verb in the infinitive. For example, when we are referring to the moment a particular action started:

 

En poco tiempo, la gente comenzó a hacer el mal.

After a short period of time, people began to do evil.

Caption 32, Aprendiendo con Carlos - América precolombina - El mito de Bochica

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In this context, however, one of the most common uses of the preposition a is when we want to express a future action using the following formula: ir (to go) + a (to) + infinitive verb:

 

Entonces el día de hoy, a petición de Chuy, vamos a hacer una carne asada.

So today, at Chuy's request, we're going to make grilled meat.

Caption 9, Osos en la cocina - Carne asada

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We also use the preposition a in Spanish when we want to indicate the end of a particular period of time:

 

El horario es de lunes a viernes.

The schedule is from Monday to Friday.

Caption 69, Negocios - La solicitud de empleo

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Another very common use of this preposition is when we want to indicate a particular point in a scale (time, distance, speed, temperature, etc.):

 

Estamos situados a cuarenta kilómetros de Barcelona.

We are located forty kilometers from Barcelona.

Caption 3, Feria de Vinos Españoles en Londres - Bodegas Castell D'Age

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Me levanto todas las mañanas a las siete.

I get up every morning at seven o'clock.

Caption 28, Club de las ideas - Pasión por el golf

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Finally, we use the preposition a before a direct object when that object is a person. Similarly, we also use this preposition when we want to introduce an indirect object:

 

A mi hermana le gusta el color rojo.

My sister likes the color red.

Caption 7, Español para principiantes - Los colores

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Entonces, nosotros les compramos a las personas para que...

So, we buy from people so that...

Caption 7, Fruteria "Los Mangos" - Vendiendo Frutas

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The contraction al  in Spanish

When the preposition a goes before the definite article el, you need to combine the two words using the contraction al (a + el):

 

No quiero viajar al mundo espacial

I don't want to travel to the space world

Caption 20, La Gusana Ciega - Invasión Estelar

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Pero sí os recomiendo que vengáis aquí al parque.

But I do recommend that you come here to the park.

Caption 80, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Lémures

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Please keep in mind that when you have the preposition a next to the article el, the contraction al is mandatory! For this reason, and considering the examples we just mentioned, it would have been wrong to say the following:

No quiero viajar a el mundo

… que vengáis aquí a el parque

In both cases, you need to use the contraction al.

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That's all for now. Try writing sentences with all the different uses we have mentioned for the preposition a in Spanish. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions.

 

Explore more lessons:

The preposition sobre

A que sí / A que no

Ser vs Estar - Yo estoy

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