There are words in Spanish which have different meanings when written with or without a written accent. Let's look at donde vs dónde.
Dónde with an accent
Dónde is an interrogative and exclamatory pronoun. It is used in both direct and indirect exclamatory and interrogative sentences. It is usually translated as where.
Note that this does not mean there has to be a question or exclamation mark (see second example below).
¿Dónde vives?Where do you live?
Marcela me preguntó dónde estaba su coche.Marcela asked me where her car was.
¡Dónde tienes el dinero!Where do you keep the money!
Donde without an accent
Donde is a relative pronoun. It is also usually translated as where and it introduces a subordinate clause.
Note that without the clause introduced by donde /where the sentence would still be grammatically complete.
Trabajo en un país donde los sueldos son bastante buenos.I work in a country where the salaries are quite good.
Es un espectáculo donde hacen saltar al caballo.It is a show where they make the horse jump.
Note that sometimes donde can be followed by an infinitive. In this case part of the sentence is omitted but doesn't alter the meaning.
Necesito ir a un lugar donde relajarme.
Necesito ir a un lugar donde [yo pueda] relajarme.
I need to go somewhere where I can relax.
The function of the word dónde/donde indicates if it does or does not require a written accent. Even though the most natural translation for both is "where", it can help you to remember that if when you translate the phrase into English you can replace "where" with "in what location/to what location"; then you know it is dónde with the written accent. Look at these examples:
¡Dónde tienes el dinero!In what location/Where do you keep the money!
Trabajo en un país donde los sueldos son bastante buenos.I work in a country in what location the salaries are quite good.
Ella no me dijo dónde había estado toda la mañana.She didn't tell me where/in what location she'd been all morning.
- Dónde = where = "in/to what location" (interrogative and exclamatory pronoun).
- Donde = where = "in which" (relative pronoun in subordinate clauses).
Want to make sure your Spanish sounds confident?
We’ll map your knowledge and give you free lessons to focus on your
gaps and mistakes. Start your Braimap today »