Tag Archives: use of accents



AÑO is the fifty-fourth most common word in the Spanish language.

AÑO is a masculine noun, linked into the English word, annual, and anniversary, amongst others; in other words, something related to the English word year.

Indeed, the word AÑO means “year”.

One of the first idiomatic phrases that Spanish students learn is “tengo…años“. This is translated into English as “I am…years old” whereas the Spanish is literally saying “I have … years”.

This brings me to the question of the importance of accents in Spanish. If a ten year old says, or writes, “tengo … anos” i.e. without the tilde (the accent on the n), he or she is saying that he or she has, not to put too fine a point on it, ten anuses ( or should that be ani?). Moral of the story – beware the accent!

Here are a couple of examples of the use of año

1. As above – tengo veinticinco años – I am 25 years old

2. El año próximo voy a ir a España Next year I am going to go to Spain.

The moral of the story here then is to be very careful with your accents!  AÑO is the fifty-fourth most frequently used word in Spanish.





Qué is the forty-fifth most common word in the Spanish Language.

Qué with an accent is a Spanish word which gets British listeners, especially of a certain age, in a bit of a twist. If you are familiar with Monty Python, one of the stars of Monty Python, John Cleese had a hit comedy series called Fawlty Towers. Fawlty Towers was a disaster of a hotel and one of the hotel’s employees was a hapless Spanish waiter called Manuel who repeatedly said in most episodes “¿qué?“. The word for a while became a catch phrase.

Qué is a one syllable word which simply means “what?”.

Qué is an interrogative pronoun, which is an academic way of saying that it helps you to ask questions. And, of course, it is not a coincidence that the English word questions begins with the same three letters as qué It is also recorded as being an adjective and an adverb.

Notice that there is an accent on the eé. The purpose of the accent is to differentiate qué (what) from que (that). My trusty Spanish dictionary, the Collins one, which also has an iPad app,gives a number of different meanings of the word qué, but the simplest and easiest translation is “what”.

Here are a couple of examples of the use of qué

¿Qué dices?What are you saying?

¿Qué día del mes es hoy? What day in the month is it?

Qué comes in at number 46 in the top 100 Spanish words. I have a funny feeling that this particular word is committed easily to memory, especially for those people who are familiar with John Cleese and his immense and amazing comedic masterpiece Fawlty Towers. And, as they say in Spanish “¡qué va!”



Cuando is the thirty-ninth most common word in the Spanish Language.

This two-syllable word is both a conjunction and an adverb.

The easiest and best translation for cuando is “when”.

My trusty English – Spanish dictionary gives a whole range of translation possibilities, but the simplest and most useful one to keep in mind is “when”.

When writing this post the well-known song “dime cuando, cuando, cuando“, has been rattling around in my head – I am sure that you know it. Well, perhaps it has not quite been rattling around in my head – it is a little more pleasant than that, but it is definitely proving to be difficult to move from my mind.

Having had a closer look at the dictionary, cuando, without an accent, carries more the sense of the English word “whenever”. However, when there is an idea of a question behind it, although it makes no difference when you are speaking, when you are writing you have to add an accent – cuándo.

Here are a couple of examples of the use of cuando both with and without an accent.

Ven cuando quieras – Come when(ever) you want to…there is no idea of a question here

Desde cuándo – since when? ..clearly with the idea of a question

So, cuando, or is it cuándo, the thirty-ninth most frequently used word in the Spanish language is a tale of a well-known song and an accent.


Más is the twenty-third most common word in the Spanish Language.

Más is a comparative adverb and helps form the comparative (e.g. bigger in English) and the superlative (the biggest). In essence, the word can be translated as “more” in English.

Mas without the accent on the a is a conjunction and means “but”. The use of mas tends to be more literary. Pero is the more common word for but (see Spanish high frequency word number 22 – pero the twenty second most common word in the Spanish language).

You may well ask, what is all this about with and without an accent. Well, I would not worry too much. Increasingly, the Spaniards themselves are becoming relaxed about the use of accents – but the grammar pendants (and, on occasion, I have been known to be a bit of a grammar pedant myself) would still prefer for accents to be used (especially when the accent changes the meaning of a word) accurately and appropriately.

Here are some examples of the use of más

España es más barata que Inglaterra – Spain is cheaper than England (literally more cheap)

Juan es más grande que Roberto. – Juan is taller than Roberto (literally more tall)

Juan es más inteligente que Juanita – Juan is more intelligent than Juanita.

There we are – mas (but) without the accent and más (more) with the accent – the twenty third most common word in the Spanish language.

Do you have any thoughts about the use of accents in Spanish? Why not comment below?