Slovenian Tones: #1 Helpful Guide

Slovenian city - Text: Slovenian tones: A Ling guide

Do you seem to be stuck on Slovenian tones and are in need of a little extra help? Don’t worry! If Slovenian isn’t your first language, it can generally be difficult to hit the complex syllabic and acute sounds frequently found in this language.

In this post, we’ll discuss tips and tricks that will help you hit the tones found in the Slovenian language and get you sounding like a local. Let’s dive in!

Tones: An Overview

You might be wondering, “What are tones?” Let me explain. In linguistics, tones are variations in vocal pitch that are used to communicate meaning. Depending on the way a word is pronounced, the meaning of the word changes. When languages have these kinds of curious words, they are called tonal words.

In standard Slovenian, there exist both tonal and non-tonal words, which is why recognizing the diacritics is important to develop that dynamic accent when pronouncing a word to say it correctly. The tones affect both consonants and vowels, so always be on the lookout for marks floating above letters to guide you in pronunciation.

Slovenian Tones In Action: Vowels

Slovenian tones are super important to get right if you want native Slovenes to understand you. Pairs of words can be spelled the same, but they differentiate when you pay attention to whether an accent is placed above a particular letter.

For Slovenian tones, there are three stress signs – called ostrivec, krativec, and strešica – that are placed above vowels (A, E, I, O, U), which tell where to emphasize letter pronunciation. Just think of it like adding a little extra oomph to that particular letter. Depending on where the stress is, words are pronounced differently. And by pronouncing words differently, words change meaning. So, now let’s take a look at what the three stress signs look like in actual Slovenian words.


Ostrivec (OH-stree-vehtz) looks like an upward slash above a letter. Let’s use different words with each vowel as an example.

For the letter I in the word míza (table), you can see the ostrivec symbol above that first vowel. This tells you to place greater stress on the letter I to pronounce the vowel in a long format like “MEE-zah”.

In the word kúhar (cook) the ostrivec above the U guides you into pronouncing the U in a long format, as well. So, the word is pronounced KOO-harr.

In the word bábica (grandmother), the ostrivec above the A makes you say the A with greater stress, and so the word is pronounced BAH-bee-tzah. Notice how the final A letter has no stress mark, so although it is a vowel, it is pronounced in the short, softer A-sound format.

For the letter É, we have the words mléko (milk) and srcé (heart). These vowels are pronounced with a strong EH sound, respectively pronounced as MLEH-koh and sear-TZEE.

In the words móka (flour) and móž (husband), the stress marks above the O make a OH sound, making the words sound out to MOH-kah and MOH-shh.

Man and woman talking - Slovenian tones Ling app


Next is krativec (KRAH-tee-vetz), which looks a little ostrivec as a slash symbol but going in the opposite direction (like this à). The general rule for this sign is that when you see this stress marker above a vowel, the letter will be pronounced short and fast.

In the word mìš (mouse) the krativec tells you to pronounce the I like EE, turning the word into MEE-shh. Another example is in the word nìč (zero, nothing), which guides you into saying the word like NEE-ch.

With words such as krùh (bread) and kùp (a pile of something), the stress on the Ù turns the pronunciations into something like KROO and KOO-p, respectively.

For bràt (brother), the shorter A sound makes this vowel sound like br-AHT. You can hear the difference between this when up against a word we just touched on with a longer sounding A vowel from ostrivec: bábica.

In študènt (student) the E is short and said quickly to produce a SHTOO-dehnt sound. And in pès (dog), the same E sound pronunciation makes this word sound like pEHs.

For the letter O, we have the words stòl (chair) and otròk (child). This short and sweet O sound goes quickly in these words to sound like STOLE and oh-TROKE.


Perhaps you’ve seen an upside-down ‘v’ on some letters and aren’t sure how to pronounce them? Those symbols are called a circumflex or a strešica in Slovenia. Here’s a fun fact for you: in Slovenian, strešica actually means ‘little roof’!

In vowels, this stress sign is interesting in that it can only be placed above the vowels E and O. The rule of thumb here for the sounds of these letters is that E sounds like EH and OH sounds generally longer and more exaggerated.

For example, we have sêstra (sister): SEHH-strah. Also, žêna (wife): zsh-EHH-nah.

In the O words, let’s use ôče (father) as an example. The Ô is a long OH, kind of like an exclamation of realization when you remember something (Ohhh!) So, this word is pronounced OH-cheh. Understand?


In Slovenian spelling, you’ll notice some words wear funny hats just like the familiar Spanish acute accent. All of these “hats” are actually called diacritics, or accent marks. Think of diacritics as belonging to one big family that serves the same function that denotes a “dynamic accent” or using inflection to pronounce a vowel or consonant.

We’ll discuss some diacritics used in both Slovenian vowels and consonants to get you a better understanding of how these marks work to help distinguish tonal sequences. 

Woman sitting on the floor with laptop studying Slovenian tones Ling app

Dynamic Accents: Stress And Duration

Slovenian places great emphasis on dynamic accents, especially on vowels (A, E, I, O, U). While they mark vocal stress, they work double-duty by marking vowel duration. That means vowel quality will be pronounced as a long vowel (like the A in bake) or a short vowel (like the A in cat).

The vowels in Slovenian words are considered to be predictable to pronounce. If there’s a word with a long vowel, then it’s automatically stressed. A word without a long vowel, however, has its stress fall to the final syllable. By looking at sequences of letters, you can use the predictable order of both short and long vowels to figure out the tones in pronunciation. It does take some practice to recognize, so don’t give up!

Acute Accents

The two accentual marks that denote tonal differences in vowels are the acute and grave accents. An acute accent (like in gól) tells you to make your voice long and low when pronouncing the letter O. So when you see that mark, make sure to stress that vowel!

Let’s take a look at these accents in action in specific Slovenian words.

Corner/angle// Like/as inKót/KotCOH-t/Coat
Corner/angle// Like/as inJe/JéYeh/Y-EH
Draw/Rummy (a card game)Remí/RémiReh-mee/Ray-mee

Grave Accents

A grave accent is a little line flick that goes up and to the left (like this: è). This symbol denotes a short and low pitch. This mark is only present in the letter E and is said like the beginning E sound in the word ‘energy.’

There is also such a thing as a double grave accent, which looks like ‘ȅ‘ and denotes a short and high pitch. Mostly used in Serbo-Croatian languages, it can be found in Slovene, though not as prominently. The double grave is not used in everyday conversation, but still worth to note.

Slovenian Terms

Vowels, diacritics, and stress, oh my! There’s so much to know about the Slovenian accent that it’s hard to know where to even begin to put it all together. Slovenian tones can be tricky, from the tonal stress of a certain syllable to figuring out whether a particular word has long vowels or if the final syllable should have stress; it can be overwhelming to sort through this information.

Below is a list of helpful Slovenian words you can use as examples to train how you see and say diacritic marks.

Half ofPólPole

Learn Slovenian With Ling

Now that you’ve gotten to the end of this post, you’ve surely learned a thing or two about Slovenian tones and can possibly speak with a great Slovenian accent! Think you’re an expert? Test yourself with the Ling app and see how much Slovenian you really know. Just getting started? Don’t worry! The Ling app has wonderful lessons for beginners and advanced learners alike that will teach or refresh your Slovenian knowledge with quick language learning techniques.

With a bunch of mini-games, listening activities spoken by native speakers, and reminders to motivate you to continue learning, the Ling app is your one-stop shop for learning Slovenian. And guess what? There are more than 60 other languages for you to dive into and explore. Check it out today on the App Store or Google Play Store!

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