Spanish is a syllable-timed language, so each syllable has the same duration regardless of stress. Stress most often occurs on any of the last three syllables of a word, with some rare exceptions at the fourth last. The tendencies of stress assignment are as follows:
In words ending in vowels and , stress most often falls on the penultimate syllable.
In words ending in all other consonants, the stress more often falls on the ultimate syllable.
Preantepenultimate stress occurs rarely and only in words like guardándoselos (‘saving them for him/her’) where a clitic follows certain verbal forms.
In addition to the many exceptions to these tendencies, there are numerous minimal pairs which contrast solely on stress. For example, sabana, with penultimate stress, means ‘savannah’ while sábana, with antepenultimate stress, means ‘sheet’; límite (‘boundary’), limite (‘[that] he/she limits’) and limité (‘I limited’) also contrast solely on stress.
Phonological stress may be marked orthographically with an acute accent ( ácido, distinción, etc). This is done according to the mandatory stress rules of Spanish orthography which are similar to the tendencies above (differing with words like distinción) and are defined so as to unequivocally indicate where the stress lies in a given written word.
An acute accent may also be used to differentiate homophones (such as té for ‘tea’ and te). An amusing example of the significance of intonation in Spanish is the phrase ¿Cómo “cómo como”? ¡Como como como! (“What do you mean / ‘how / do I eat’? / I eat / the way / I eat!”).