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When does the word solo have an accent (tilde) on the first o (sólo)? When does it not?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

You should never put an accent in "solo" if you want to follow RAE latest recommendations.

Following accentuation rules "solo" would never have an accent but the previous rules recommend it in cases ambiguity between the adverb and adjective meanings.

According to the RAE (which haven't updated the DPD yet) the ambiguity cases are very rare and can be solved using other words (solamente, únicamente...)

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I knew the new recommendations said something about it, but didn't know the exact terms. However, I still think there are cases where such an ambiguity can happen and you can't use the recommended means to avoid it. Imagine a poem, where solo is the only word that fits, or rhymes, but the sentence is ambiguous. I know, it's not a common case, but it can happen. – MikMik Dec 28 '11 at 10:36
At First RAE said these new rules where compulsory. After a lot of protests they went back and it's not compulsory so "sólo" is also OK when it means ("solamente"). For that reason the dictionary still keeps both words. They can't change a rule that people uses for such a long time. – Juanillo Feb 13 '12 at 11:10
The RAE rectracted on that and the DEM (Diccionario del español de México) usually follows what the RAE says but in this case they didn't accepted that, and some magazines and publishers in Mexico are specifically attached to it. – Jaime Jan 17 '15 at 4:46

Solo has an accent when it means "only" and can be mistaken with "alone":

Compare these two sentences:

  • Voy a estar solo un día. = I'm going to stay alone for a day.
  • Voy a estar sólo un día. = I'm going to stay just one day.

When I learnt the rule, I was told "si puede sustituirse por únicamente, lleva tilde", but the actual rule is, "si puede sustituirse por únicamente y puede confundirse con sin compañía, lleva tilde". That said, I usually put the accent whenever it means "only".

You can find the explanation by RAE in the DPD (Diccionario panhispánico de dudas).

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Like @MarcosPri says, this used to be the rule, but it's now outdated. – Petruza Jan 3 '12 at 1:03
@Petruza the rule is not outdated (this new rule is just a recommendation but it's not compulsory. At first it was but after a lot of complains about it they made it just a recommendation). – Juanillo Feb 13 '12 at 11:11

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