Using Accents & Other Lexical Annotations

An accent is used over vowels to indicate a stressed syllable or the fusion of vowels. Learning where and when to place accents on words is just part of the learning process but I’d like to map it out for you in case you have any doubts. The section on the trema (¨) has a lighter font because due to the Spelling Reform, the trema is no longer used on words of Portuguese origin (only on foreign words now).

Agudo (´)
It’s use is conditioned by the rules of graphic accentuation, including stressed and open vowels such as a, e, and o or above the stressed vowels i and u.

Ex. Macapá (capital of Amapá state), médico (doctor), tórax (thorax), vovó (grandmother), língua (language/tongue), múltiplo (multiple).

Circunflexo* (ˆ)
Used above stressed and closed vowels such as a, e and o, in accordance with the rules of graphic accentuation.

Ex. lâmpada (lamp), você (you), ônibus (bus), vovô (grandfather).

Grave (`)
Indicates a crasis (contraction of a vowel or diphthong), such as the fusion of two a‘s (in general, a preposition and the article).

Ex. Fui à festa sem ser convidado (I went to the party without being invited).

Til (˜)
Used above a and e to indicate nasality.

Ex. pão (bread), mamões (papayas), ímã (magnet). 

Cedilha (ç)
Used only with the letter c when followed by a, o and u, to indicate the sound of the phoneme.

Ex. maçã (apple), estação (station, season), espaço (space), açúcar (sugar).

Trema (¨)
Used above the letter u when pronounced yet unstressed in the pairing gu and qu, when followed by either an e or an i.
Ex. ensangüentado (bloodied), lingüiça (sausage), conseqüencia (consequence), tranqüilo (calm).

Apóstrofo (‘)
Used to indicate the supression of a phoneme in a word, in order to avoid repetition or cacophony (harshness in sound).

Ex. d’água (of water).

* – The circunflexo is also called “chapeuzinho” (little hat) informally.


6 thoughts on “Using Accents & Other Lexical Annotations

  1. Hi Fábio,

    On the “chapeuzinho”, I’ve heard it used frequently by Brazilian adults who are college-educated when trying to explain this type of accent mark, perhaps because it is easiest to refer back to a term from their childhood, which everyone understands.

    As much as I would like to take credit for the last two lessons, I took them, word for word, straight out of the heavy grammar book I bought at FNAC…well, word for word minus the chapeuzinho part ;)

    Thanks for commenting!

  2. If college-educated people use this term, it’s to make it easier. But they wouldn’t use it with another Brazilian unless with a young kid or an adult who can barely read.

  3. Well, I remembered now. You can have a preposition + a pronoun (aquela) that will become àquela. Other than that, I cant think of any other example that it’s not a preposition + article.

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