Spanish accents: Seriously useful tricks to use, type and master

November 10, 2023

We hear from a lot of students who say they struggle to find those pesky Spanish accents when typing. While it’s tempting to just leave them off, accents can actually completely change the meaning of the word:

papá (Dad)  –  papa (potato)

cómo (how)  –  comó (he ate)

tú (tea)  – tu (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’re here to tell you – there’s a better way! 

In this article, we’re going to teach you:

Are you ready to step away from copy-paste, and into Spanish fluency? ¡Vamos!

How to type out Spanish accents 

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

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

  1. On the keyboard, simply hold down the letter you want to accent. 
  2. A small box with letter choices will pop up
  3. Select which accented version of the letter you want. 

For example, holding down the n key will cause a box with ñ and ń to appear. You can then simply click on it, or type the corresponding number.

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


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How to type Spanish accents on a MAC computer

If simply holding down the key doesn’t work for you, never fear, there’s another easy way to add the right Spanish accents to your writing.

To get accented vowels on a Mac:

  1. Hold down the Option/Alt key (⌥) and the e key. 
  2. Release both keys 
  3. Type the letter that you want to accent.

To write an email to your Papá, for example, you would use Alt/Option + E, then type A to get á

ápress “alt/option” and “e” together, then release them and press a
épress “alt/option” and “e” together, then release them and press e
ípress “alt/option” and “e” together, then release them and press i
ópress “alt/option” and “e” together, then release them and press o
úpress “alt/option” and “e” together, then release them and press o
ñpress “alt/option” and “n” together, then release them and press “n” again
üpress “alt/option” and “u” together, then release them 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 

In order to use the international keyboard to type Spanish accents, you need to select a new keyboard layout. Head to the Control Panel > Keyboard > select English (international). You might need to restart for it to take effect. 

Then you can use the following shortcuts:

  • For accented vowels, press Ctrl + ‘, then the vowel you want to accent.
  • For the 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, then enter the Spanish accent codes below using the right-hand side keypad.

CharacterCode using the numbers on the right, not on top of your keyboard
áalt + 0233
éalt + 0233
íalt + 0237
óalt + 0243
úalt + 0250
ñalt + 0241
üalt + 0252
¡alt + ctrl + shift + !
¿alt + ctrl + shift + ?

How to type Spanish accents on mobile phones

Most new mobile phones, across both Apple and Android operating systems, will allow you to type an accented letter simply by long-pressing on the letter on the keypad.

The various options for that letter will appear in a small box, and you can make a selection.

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

Simply navigate to Settings > Language > then select Spanish (or any language you are learning).

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

There are three different types of Spanish accents:

Spanish accents: The essential guide

Now you’ve learned how to type out Spanish accents, it’s time to learn how to navigate them

Spanish n: the tilde (ñ)

That little squiggle above the n in Spanish words such as España, niño and otoño is called a tilde (although confusingly, in Spanish it’s called la virgulilla or la tilde de la eñe). 

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

In the majority of cases, the ñ is used in place of a ‘double n’, or the ne/ni in Latin.

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

The acute accent: (é)

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

¡No te preocupes! Don’t worry, we’re not going to turn into a linguistics professor on you. But we do want to point out the three main reasons why you’ll see the acute accent used in a word, to make it easier for you to spot where and why the accent is needed.

  1. The accent indicates that the normal rules of word stress don’t apply. Instead, the pronunciation stress will always be on the accented letter. Take a look at the two words below and note the different stresses:
  • Célebre (celebrity) – Here, the stress is on the first syllable – CELebre
  • Celebré (I celebrated) – Here, the stress 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 es? (How much is it?)
  • No puedo ver cuanto es (I can’t see how much it is)
  • ¿Dónde estás? (Where are you?)
  • 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’re looking at you bat, bank, ring, live, letter, minutes.
  • Si (if) – (yes)
  • Te (you) – (tea)
  • Tu (your) – (you)
  • Mas (but) – Máa (more)

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

The Diaeresis in Spanish (ü)

The least common of the Spanish accents is the diaeresis. It is only used above the letter ‘u’, and it always fits snugly in between a ‘g’ and either and ‘e’ or ‘i’. For example:

  • bilingüe – bilingual
  • pingüino – penguin
  • argüir – to argue

As the ‘u’ is often silent following a g in Spanish, 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 like in Gwen Stefani.

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