Relative pronouns in Spanish (pronombre de relativo) are words like que (who, whom, that, which), which introduce relative clauses. A relative clause is a group of words which refers back to something previously mentioned in the sentence, a noun or a pronoun, known as the antecedent.
El coche era mío. (The car was mine).
Enrique compró un coche que era mío. (Enrique bought a car that was mine).
In the third example below “el coche” is the antecedent. The use of the Spanish relative pronouns is quite important because you will sound more fluent.
Spanish relative pronouns QUE and QUIEN
The two most used relative pronouns are que, that can be referred to people, places or things and quien, that can only be referred to a person. Today we are going to talk about these two, a future post we will talk about the others.
A couple of things before we continue, don’t mistake the relative pronouns with the interrogatives. They are spelled the same, but interrogatives always have an accent over the “e”: qué, quién.
¿Quién es Enrique? (Who is Enrique?)
Es el hombre a quien vendí mi coche. (He is the man to whom a sold my car.)
Another important thing is that relative pronouns are often optional in English, but its use is compulsory in Spanish.
QUE in English can be who, whom, which and that
Que is the most common relative pronoun in Spanish, in spoken and written language. It is invariable, and it can refer to people and to things.
La única cosa que tienes que hacer. (The only thing that/which you have to do.)
Ramón, que es estudiante, es mi compañero de piso (Ramon, who is a student, is my flatmate.)
In the first sentence, que introduces a restrictive clause, one which restricts the scope of the antecedent. No comma or pause is used between the relative pronoun and the antecedent. In the second example, the clause is a non-restrictive clause. It is there just to provide more information about the antecedent, so a comma is needed in writing and a pause in the speech. As part of a non-restrictive clause, que, in this example, can be replaced by quien or el cual (we will see «el cual» in the next post).
Que is often used with prepositions, in this case, is advisable to use an article that matches in number and gender with the antecedent.
Vívía en una casa. (I lived in a house.)
La casa tenía tres plantas. (The house had three floors.)
La casa en la que vivía tenía tres plantas. (The house I live in had three floors.)
Note that the preposition must come before the relative pronoun, never at the end of the clause
QUIEN and QUIENES in English can WHO, WHOM
Quien, and its plural form quienes, can only be referred to people, and its use does not differ much from that of el que/el cual, so they are going to be used after a noun, frequently after preposition + article or in a non-restrictive clause
Elena, a quien admiro mucho, ganó el premio. (Elena, whom I admire very much, won the prize.)
Estas son mis compañeras con quienes practico español (These are my colleagues with whom I practice Spanish.)
In these two sentences quien and quienes can be changed by que, but if we used que we need to use the article: a la que admiro…, con las que practico…
When the relative pronoun is written immediately after the antecedent, quien or quienes cannot be used even when they are referred to people.
La mujer que vive en esa casa tiene cien años. (The woman who lives in that house is a hundred years old.)
Never “la mujer quien…”
Do you want to learn more about the Spanish relative sentences?
Let’s practice the Spanish relative pronouns QUE, QUIEN and QUIENES
Practice with this activity what you have learned about the relative pronouns in Spanish, but before doing the exercise remember you can contact your tutor with any question you have. Don`t you have a Spanish tutor online yet?
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