These are some of the resources that will be very useful during your learning of the Spanish language.
The words that, which, and who are not just used in questions. They are used in statements, too.
When these words are used in statements, they are called relative pronouns. In this chapter, we’ll look at the many ways in which you can use these words. In addition to que and quien, which you already know, we’ll take a look at some new words: lo que, el cual, and el que.
Using Relative Pronouns
Relative pronouns add more information about a noun in a sentence. They can be used to connect short sentences or add a few more details about something that was mentioned. Take a look at the two examples below to see how relative pronouns might be used.
The most common relative pronoun is que. Notice that the relative pronoun que does NOT have an accent mark over the é like the question ¿qué? does.
Get used to using que. It has a variety of meanings, including that, which, who and whom. Whereas we often drop the word that in English, it must ALWAYS be included in Spanish. For example, in English you can say,
Can you see where the word that should be inserted into each of the following sentences to be able to translate them precisely into Spanish?
Once you get used to inserting that into your sentences, you’ll find it easy to use que. Look at the following examples.
QUE with Prepositions
Que can also be used together with the prepositions a, con, de, or en to form phrases like at which, in which, to which, et cetera.
To use these expressions properly, you need to have a basic understanding of English grammatical rules governing prepositions. Spanish has a much more rigid grammatical structure than English in many cases. When it comes to prepositions, you can’t just let them dangle in Spanish. Compare the sentences below.
The person I went with was late. The person with whom I went was late. The restaurant we went to was busy. The restaurant to which we went was busy.
The topic we talked about was boring. The topic about which we talked was boring.
In Spanish, you MUST use the formal structure. It is impossible to form sentences in Spanish using the informal structure in the first column.
Look again at the first pair of sentences above. Compare these two direct translations into Spanish.
La persona con la que fui estaba atrasada. La persona con quien fui estaba atrasada.
The first sentence makes no sense in Spanish. The second sentence is correct.
If you usually speak grammatical English, you’ll find this quite easy. If you’re an ordinary English speaker, you may find that learning how to use prepositions properly in Spanish is a bit difficult at first. If it seems a bit confusing, remember that a similar grammatical rule governs the construction of questions in Spanish.
Again, Spanish always uses the formal structure, and as a result you’ll never find a Spanish sentence that ends with a preposition.
Quien is used to refer to people. It can mean who, whom, or that and is often used with the prepositions a, con, and de.
In the previous examples, que and quien have both referred to specific nouns (e.g. Carmen, la señora,las personas, or el profesor). When what you are talking about ISN’T a particular noun but rather an idea, a wish, a situation, or something that happened in the past, you will need to use lo que.
Lo que can mean that, what, or that which.
As mentioned before, the word cual can be used in statements as well as in questions, as long as it has a definite article (el, la, los, or las) in front. When used in statements rather than questions, it can meanthat, who, and whom.
El cual and its forms (la cual, los cuales, las cuales) are used in very specific circumstances:
After prepositions of more than one syllable, e.g.
When the person or thing to which the relative pronoun refers is unclear, e.g.
(If you said, “el que estaba en las noticias” it would mean that the employee had been in the news, not the company.)
When the clause contains information that is NOT essential, e.g.
Note that el que and its forms la que, los que, and las que can also be used to talk about the one(s) orthat one(s) when you are clarifying which person or thing you are referring to.
Examples of sentences that would require the use of a form of el que are as follows: