Italian Orthographic Accent

This part is not really fundamental for a beginner, who might want to skip it. However, some readers may have noticed that in most cases the accented vowels bear a grave accent, i.e. slanted leftwards (perciò, sarà), while a few others are slanted in the opposite direction (perché).

Modern Italian uses the following set of accented vowels:

"grave" accents. slanted leftwards
("wide" sound pronunciation)
à è ì ò ù
"acute" accent. slanted rightwards
("narrow" sound pronunciation)
  é      

It has already been said that when the accent is carried by the last syllable, an accented vowel has to be used. Since most vowels only take the grave accent, this is the only one that can be used:

andrà he/she will go   lunedì monday
là there   finì it finished
         
falò great fire, pire   laggiù down there, over there
però but   più more - plu

Only the vowel e can take two different accents; according to the word, either one or the other should be used. These are examples of words whose final e bears a grave accent ("wide" sound):

è he/she/it
caffè coffee or coffee-bar
frappè milk shake

In other words, instead, the final e bears the acute accent ("narrow" sound):

perché why, because
né not, nor, neither
sé self, one's self

In very few cases, an accented e can be very useful to mark the stressed syllable, thus the correct sound of the vowel:

pèsca ("wide" e) » peach   pésca ("narrow" e) » fishing

Also in this case the accent is not mandatory; actually, many people spell both words pesca (i.e. with a normal e), because the context of the sentence is enough to understand which of the two makes more sense.




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