Easy Learning Spanish

Relative pronouns - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish

What is a relative pronoun?
In English, a relative pronoun is one of the words who, which and that (and the more formal whom) which can be used to introduce information that makes it clear which person or thing is being talked about, for example, The man who has just come in is Ann’s boyfriend.; The vase that you broke was quite valuable.
Relative pronouns can also introduce further information about someone or something, for example, Peter, who is a brilliant painter, wants to study art.; Jane’s house, which was built in 1890, needs a lot of repairs.

1   Relative pronouns referring to people

  • In English, we use the relative pronouns who, whom and that to talk about people. In Spanish, que is used.
el hombre que vino ayerthe man who came yesterday
Mi hermano, que tiene veinte años, es mecánico.My brother, who is twenty, is a mechanic.
el hombre que vi en la callethe man (that) I saw in the street
TipIn English we often miss out the relative pronouns who, whom and that. For example, we can say both the friends that I see most, or the friends I see most.In Spanish, you can NEVER miss out que in this way.
  • When the relative pronoun is used with a preposition, use el/la/los/las que or quien/quienes which must agree with the noun it replaces; el que changes for the feminine and plural forms, quien changes only in the plural.
  • Here are the Spanish relative pronouns referring to people that are used after a preposition:
MasculineFeminineMeaning
Singularel que
quien
la que
quien
who, that, whom
Plurallos que
quienes
las que
quienes
who, that, whom
 
las mujeres con las que or con quienes estaba hablandothe women (that) she was talking to
La chica de la que or de quien te hablé llega mañana.The girl (that) I told you about is coming tomorrow.
los niños de los que or de quienes se ocupa ustedthe children (that) you look after
  • Note that when de is used with el que, they combine to become del que. When a is used with el que, they combine to become al que.
el chico del que te habléthe boy I told you about
Vive con un hombre al que adora.She lives with a man she adores.
TipIn English, we often put prepositions at the end of the sentence, for example, the man she was talking to. In Spanish, you can never put a preposition at the end of a sentence.
el hombre con el que or con quien estaba hablandothe man she was talking to

2   Relative pronouns referring to things

  • In English, we use the relative pronouns which and that to talk about things. In Spanish, que is used.
la novela que ganó el premiothe novel that or which won the prize
el coche que compréthe car (that or which) I bought
TipIn English, we often miss out the relative pronouns which and that. For example, we can say both the house which we want to buy, or the house we want to buy.In Spanish, you can NEVER miss out que in this way.
  • When the relative pronoun is used with a preposition, use el/la/los/las que, which must agree with the noun it replaces. Here are the Spanish relative pronouns referring to things that are used after a preposition:
MasculineFeminineMeaning
Singularel quela quewhich, that
Plurallos quelas quewhich, that
 
la tienda a la que siempre vathe shop (that or which) she always goes to
los temas de los que hablathe subjects he talks about
  • Note that when de is used with el que, they combine to become del que. When a is used with el que, they combine to become al que.
el programa del que te habléthe programme I told you about
el banco al que fuistethe bank you went to
  • The neuter form lo que is used when referring to the whole of the previous part of the sentence.
Todo estaba en silencio, lo que me pareció raro.All was silent, which I thought was odd.
TipIn English, we often put prepositions at the end of the sentence, for example, the shop she always goes to. In Spanish, you can never put a preposition at the end of a sentence.
la tienda a la que siempre vathe shop she always goes to
la película de la que te hablabathe film I was telling you about
Grammar Extra!In English we can use whose to show possession, for example, the woman whose son is ill. In Spanish you use cuyo/cuya/cuyos/cuyas; cuyo is actually an adjective and must agree with the noun it describes NOT with the person who owns that thing.
La mujer, cuyo nombre era Antonia, estaba jubilada.The woman, whose name was Antonia, was retired.
el señor en cuya casa me alojéthe gentleman whose house I stayed in
In your reading, you may come across the forms el cual/la cual/los cuales/las cuales which are a more formal alternative to el que/la que/los que/las que after a preposition.
las mujeres con las cuales estaba hablandothe women (that or who) she was talking to
la ventana desde la cual nos observabanthe window from which they were watching us
el cual/la cual/los cuales/las cuales are also useful to make it clear who you are talking about in other cases where the pronoun does not immediately follow the person or thing it refers to.
El padre de Elena, el cual tiene mucho dinero, es …Elena’s father, who has a lot of money, is …

3   Other uses of el que, la que, los que, las que

  • You can use el que, la que, los que, las que to mean the one(s) (who/which) or those who.
Esa película es la que quiero ver.That film is the one I want to see.
los que quieren irsethose who want to leave
Key points
  • que can refer to both people and things in Spanish.
  • In English we often miss out the relative pronouns who, which and that, but in Spanish you can never miss out que.
  • After a preposition you use el que/la que/los que/las que or quien/quienes if you are referring to people; you use el que/la que/los que/las que if you are referring to things. el que and quien agree with the nouns they replace.
  • a + el queal que
    de + el quedel que
  • Never put the preposition at the end of the sentence in Spanish.
  • el que/la que/los que and las que are also used to mean the one(s) who/which or those who.

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