¿Si o Sí? The Difference Between Si And Sí In Spanish

Wondering what the difference is between si and sí in Spanish? You're not alone! Here ¡Sí! Spanish explains the answer to the common question ¿Si o Sí?


2 min read

Si and in Spanish – notice the acute accent (acento agudo) in the second instance – are often confusing for newcomers to the language, especially to native English speakers as the words are virtually indistinguishable to those more accustomed to a language that doesn't use accents (with the exception of a few loan words that English has adopted from foreign languages).

Given it is a common source of confusion, I thought it would be useful to explain the difference between these homophones – words that sound the same but have a different meaning (and usually different spelling) – and when to use ¿si o sí? *, especially as one of these words is used in the ¡Sí! Spanish brand name!

*the question ¿si o sí?  should not to be confused with the adverb sí o sí which means 'whether they like it or not' or 'no matter what'.

The Difference Between Si and Sí in Spanish

So what is the difference between si and in Spanish? Si (without an accent) is a conjunction that means 'if', whereas  (with an accent) is either an adverb that means 'yes', or a pronoun that means 'oneself' – usually.

Emphatic Exceptions

I say usually as their meaning can change if used in conjunction with other words to emphasize something. For example, the combination sí que is very common and translates to the English phrase 'certainly', 'really' or the phrase 'does indeed':

La cintura de Shakira sí que tiene movimiento = Shakira's waist certainly has/does indeed have/really does have movement

Note the meaning of can also change slightly if it is used at the end of a sentence to form a question. In these instances the better English translation is '... right?' rather than '... yes'.

How to remember the difference

Now you know the meanings of si and sí how can you remember the difference? The easiest way is to recall that the acute accent emphasizes (stresses) the pronunciation of the letter i (albeit an almost imperceptible elongation and rising intonation), and in English you can only emphasize the word 'yes!', not 'if!' (as words on their own), so must mean 'yes', and by a process of elimination si must mean 'if'.

Another good way to remember this difference is to remember a phrase with both words in it, such as:

si la respuesta es sí ... = if the answer is yes ...

Hopefully, that's cleared everything up now for you, sí? 

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