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Orthographic Accent

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Definition: A written accent that is used in Spanish to distinguish two words that otherwise are spelled and pronounced the same.

Sometimes orthographic accents are used to distinguish two related words depending on how they function in a sentence. For example, este means "this" as an adjective while éste means "this" as a pronoun. (In modern usage, such an orthographic accent is sometimes omitted if the sentence is unambiguous without it.)

In other instances, an orthographic accent is used to distinguish two unrelated words. For example, se is a reflexive pronoun meaning "himself," "herself," "itself," or "themselves," while is a conjugated verb meaning either "I know" (from saber) or "you be" (from ser).

Some writers also use an accent over the o ("or") when it comes between two numerals so it is not confused with a 0 (zero). Example: Murieron 8 ó 9 personas. (8 or 9 people died.)

Note that in all these examples, the orthographic accent doesn't affect which syllable of the word is stressed.

Also Known As: Acento ortográfico in Spanish.

Examples: Orthographic accents are used on the words in boldface: Me gusta cómo canta como Madonna. (I like how she sings like Madonna.) Aquélla es mi casa. (That is my house.) Aquella casa es mía. (That house is mine.) ¿Cuántas películas hay? (How many films are there?) Cuantos más participen, mejor será. (The more who participate the better it will be.)

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