Spanish Accents: Some Really Useful Tricks on How to Type and Use Them

We hear from many students who say they are having trouble finding those pesky Spanish accents while typing. While it’s tempting to just leave them out, accents can actually completely change the meaning of the word:

papa (papa) – papa (potato)

cómo (like) – comó (he ate)

do (tea) – do (you)

Now we can’t speak for everyone, but we’re pretty sure most dads wouldn’t appreciate being called a potato!

So if your current method is to find a website and copy and paste the á, é, í, ó, ú, ü, and ñ, we are here to tell you – there is a better way!

In this article we will give you:

  • Some really useful tricks for accessing the Spanish accent keyboard on a Mac, PC, or smartphone
  • The ultimate guide to mastering Spanish accents while writing and speaking

Ready to move away from copying and pasting and becoming fluent in Spanish? Vamos!

How to type in Spanish accents

The first trick we want to teach you is the absolutely easiest!

Here is trick # 1. It works for all Spanish letters: á, é, í, ó, ú, ñ, ü

  1. Just hold down the letter you want to accent on the keyboard.
  2. A small box with letter choices will appear. Choices
  3. Select the version of the accented letter you want.

For example, if you hold down the n key, a box with ñ and ń will appear. You can then simply click on it or enter the appropriate number.

This trick works on multiple computers and phones, but not all programs. We’ve tested it on many popular websites (Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, WhatsApp, and of course Busuu) and it works on all of them. It is certainly not foolproof, however. So, if it doesn’t work for you, just keep reading for more typing tricks.

How to enter Spanish accents on a MAC computer

If just holding the key down doesn’t work for you, fear not, there is another easy way to add the correct Spanish accents to your writing.

How to Get Accented Vowels on Mac:

  1. hold the Option / Alt key (⌥) and the e Key.
  2. Release both buttons
  3. Enter the letter you want to emphasize.

For example, to write an email to your dad, use Alt / Option + E, then type A to get a

character code
a press “alt / option” and “e” at the same time, then release them and press a
é press “alt / option” and “e” at the same time, then release and press e
I press “alt / option” and “e” at the same time, then release and press i
Ö press “alt / option” and “e” at the same time, then release and press o
ú press “alt / option” and “e” at the same time, then release and press o
ñ press “alt / option” and “n” together, then release and press “n” again
ü press “alt / option” and “u” at the same time, then release and press “u” again
¡ press “Alt / Option” and “!” at the same time
¿ press “alt / option”, “Shift” and “?” at the same time

How to type Spanish accents on a PC

To use the international keyboard to enter Spanish accents, you must choose a new keyboard layout. Go to Control Panel> Keyboard> select English (International). You may have to restart for it to take effect.

Then you can use the following shortcuts:

  • For accented vowels, press Ctrl + ‘and then the vowel you want to accentuate.
  • For Spanish ñ, press Ctrl + ~, then the n key.

If that doesn’t work, try the special character codes. Each accented character can be entered with a four-digit code. Simply press the “Alt” key and then enter the following Spanish accent codes using the keyboard on the right.

character Code with the numbers on the right, not on the top of the keyboard
a old + 0233
é old + 0233
I old + 0237
Ö old + 0243
ú old + 0250
ñ old + 0241
ü old + 0252
¡ Alt + Ctrl + Shift +!
¿ Alt + Ctrl + Shift +?

How to Enter Spanish Accents on Cell Phones

Most new cell phones, for both Apple and Android operating systems, allow you to type an accented letter simply by long pressing the letter on the keyboard.

The various options for that letter are shown in a small box and you can choose from them.

The other option is to change your phone’s language settings. This is also a great trick to use to boost your language learning!

Just navigate to Settings> Language> then choose Spanish (or any other language you’re learning).

Your phone will then switch to Spanish – so be prepared for a steep learning curve. You may want to brush up on your Spanish before you switch!

There are three different types of Spanish accents:

Spanish accents: the essential guide

  • the tilde (ñ)
  • the acute accent (é)
  • the diaeresis (ü)

Spanish n: the tilde (ñ)

These little squiggles above the n in Spanish words like Spain, niño and otoño is called Tilde (although confusing, it is called in Spanish la virgulilla or la tilde de la eñe).

In Spanish, ‘n’ and ‘ñ’ are considered two completely separate letters, and a typical Spanish keyboard has separate keys for both.

In most cases, the ñ is used instead of a ‘double n’ or the Latin ne / ni.

Pronunciation tip: To pronounce Spanish correctly, think of the ‘ny’ sound in the English word canyon.

The acute accent: (é)

The Spanish acute accent looks like a small slash. The vowels are always written from left to right: ‘á’, ‘é’, ‘í’, ‘ó’, ‘ú’. And we’ll tell you a little secret: it only appears once per word.

Do not worry! Don’t worry, we won’t become a linguistics professor for you. However, we would like to point out the three main reasons you see the acute accent in a word so that you can more easily see where and why the accent is needed.

  1. The accent indicates that the normal rules of word stress do not apply. Instead, the emphasis in pronunciation is always on the accented letter. Take a look at the following two words and note the different loads:
  • celebrity (Celebrity) – Here the emphasis is on the first syllable – CELebre
  • Celebré (I was partying) – Here the emphasis is on the last syllable – celeBRE
  1. We also use the accent when asking questions. Take a look at the two examples below and notice where the accent is used.
  • Cuánto it? (How much is it?)
  • No puedo ver cuanto it (I can’t see how much it is)
  • ¿Dónde estás? (Where are they?)
  • Siempre sé donde ir (I always know where to go)
  1. The other common use of the acute accent is when writing to distinguish otherwise identical words. Wouldn’t it be great if English had this trick too? We see you bat, bank, ring, live, letter, protocol.
  • Si (if) – Si (Yes)
  • Te (You) – (Tea)
  • Do (Your) – Do (You)
  • Mas (but) – Maa (More)

Pronunciation tip: Make sure that you pronounce the accented syllable louder or longer than the others in the sentence.

The diaeresis in Spanish (ü)

The least common Spanish accent is the diaerese. It is only used above the letter “u” and always fits exactly between a “g” and either and “e” or “i”. For example:

  • bilingual – bilingual
  • pingüino – penguin
  • argüir – fight

Since the ‘u’ is often mute in Spanish after ag, the ü is used to indicate that you need to pronounce both the g sound and the u sound.

Pronunciation tip: To pronounce the diaeresis, think of the gw sound as in Gwen Stefani.

Speak Spanish in just 10 minutes a day

Do you want to speak Spanish with confidence? At Busuu, the award-winning app chosen by over 100 million learners, we take the stress out of learning a language.

We know the Spanish accent can be difficult to master, especially if you don’t live in a Spanish-speaking country. That’s why the Busuu app makes it easy for you to get authentic conversation exercises with feedback from native Spanish speakers – without the pressure of a live conversation.

Try it for yourself and see how quickly you can learn a new language with the right tools!

We think you will enjoy it too …

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