Accents in Portuguese

5 de April de 2021

What the hell are accents in Portuguese?

Accents in Portuguese – could this language get any more confusing? Well, at least we use the same Latin alphabet. And it could be worse! Accents could be just random marks used to denote stress and intonation. But they aren’t! They’re calculated Portuguese accent marks used to denote stress and intonation. That is, at least there are some rules to how they’re used. And today we’ll be talking about all of them. So let’s take a look!

Acute Accents in Portuguese

The acute accent in Portuguese is by far the most important accent when you learn Portuguese. It’s the most common of all Portuguese accents. And, thankfully, its use is pretty much entirely regulated by rules and not exceptions. If you’re wondering what it is exactly or what it does, let me tell you: the acute accent indicates an open vowel sound and you can find it in words such as caféfácil and máximo. In fact, each of those words mentioned follows a different rule that explains why we need an acute accent in them.

Accents in Oxytone Words

Wait a minute! What’s that fancy looking strange word there? What is an oxytone word? Chill out! It’s okay, we’ll explain everything to you! We’re a Portuguese language school, after all! A word is oxytone when its last syllable is the stressed one. In English, an example of an oxytone word would be reward – and that’s certainly what you deserve after facing this monster. In Portuguese, any oxytone word ending in ae or o will need an acute accent in Portuguese – just like the word café!

o Canadá Canada
olá hello
o crachá the name tag
o sofá the couch/sofa
a chaminé the chimney
o boné the cap
o jacaré the alligator


Accents in Paroxytone Words

Here comes another beast! But if you tamed the first one, this one will sure be a piece of cake. Paroxytone words are words in which the second to last syllable is stressed. Potato is an example of a paroxytone word. Most words in Portuguese are actually paroxytones, but that doesn’t mean that all of them get accents. Paroxytone words will get accents in a couple of different instances:

  1. when ending with the consonants LNR or (like fácil)
  2. if it ends in IISUM
  3. having diphthongs such as IAUAIEEAIO in its last syllable
responsável responsible
hífen hyphen
o/a repórter the reporter
o açúcar the sugar
o clímax the climax
o táxi the taxi
o lápis the pencil
o álbum the album
a polícia the police
a matéria the subject/matter
a água the water
a série the series
a área the area
o exercício the exercise


Accents in Proparoxytone Words

This is the last of them, I swear! I don’t mean to be evil! A word is proparoxytone when the antepenultimate syllable is the one that’s stressed. In English, the word photographer would be an example of that. All proparoxytone words have accent marks in Portuguese! That’s probably the single most important rule you can learn from this all. If the strongest syllable of a word is the antepenultimate syllable, then it must have an accent of some sort in that syllable! Just like the word máximo. Got it?

a análise the analysis
básico basic
fantástico fantastic
a característica the characteristic
o estereótipo the stereotype
o exército the army
a música the music

In case you want to learn more about oxytone, paroxytone and proparoxytone words, check out the Video Dicas on our Youtube channel.

Circumflex Accents in Portuguese

Alright, alright, so we’ve got a new one. But what is it? Well, the circumflex accent in Portuguese has been kindly nicknamed “grandpa’s little hat” by middle schoolers all over Brazil… and a fair amount of Brazilian adults who don’t bother learning grammar.

Its rules of use are actually the same as the acute accent in Portuguese, but with a twist: instead of being used to indicate open vowel sounds, the circumflex accent indicates closed vowel sounds. It’s the difference between avô and avóipê and . And it can sometimes be quite tricky to get used to, but practice makes perfect, doesn’t it?

Accents in Oxytone Words

o ateliê the atelier
o bebê the baby
o buquê the bouquet
o camponês the peasant
o português the Portuguese
o comitê the committee
o maiô the swimsuit


Accents in Paroxytone Words

o abdômen the abdomen
o câncer the cancer
a fênix the phoenix
o ônus the onus
têxtil textile


Accents in Proparoxytone Words

a lâmpada the light bulb
a âncora the anchor
bêbado drunk
o ônibus the bus
anônimo anonymous
incômodo inconvenient
excêntrico excentrict


Other Accents in Portuguese

There are a couple of notable mentions to add to our list. One of them is the crase (à) which looks like a reversed acute accent. It’s not really used within words, since it’s actually the combination of an article with a preposition. That makes the crase quite unique and different from the other accents we have in Portuguese. You can read more about it in this Dica.

The other marking that is important to mention is the til in Portuguese (ã/õ) which gives the vowels a more nasal sound. It’s not considered an accent per se, and it doesn’t necessarily mark the stressed syllable of a word. Some words can even both the til and an accent in Portuguese: órfãoímã, órgãobênção, among others. So really, the til is just a wanna-be accent in Portuguese that doesn’t quite make the cut.

Now that you know how to use the accents in Portuguese, you’d better not screw up your spelling! Us Portuguese teachers, we’re always attentive!

See you in the next Dica!

Ler esta Dica em Português            Leer esta Dica en Español
Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
Masculine Words Ending in -Á
A Accent in Portuguese
Words Ending in -ção in Portuguese