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Spanish Relative pronouns

As you know from English, relative pronouns combine two sentences by referring a noun which was stated previously. Spanish relative pronouns are much easier than English pronouns. Because, the most frequently used relative pronoun “que” can be used for all cases where you should use who, whom, that and which. On the other hand, there are some point which you need to take into account when using them. For example; you cannot omit a relative pronoun in Spanish, as opposed to English. Note also  that the relative pronouns can be used as the subject as well as the onject of the verbs or they can be used as the object of a preposition. 

Below we review the most commonly used relative pronouns of Spanish. 


Que can be used for people and things. 

La casa en que vive es pequeña (The house in which I live is small)  

La mujer que come la ensalada es mi hermana (The woman who is eating the salad is my sister)


Quien and quienes are used only for people. It corresponds to who/whom. Quien is the singular and quienes is the plural form.

Did you notice that the relative pronouns look like the question words ¿Qué? and ¿Quién/es? The only difference is the omission of the accents.

Note that while in English you would omit the relative pronoun if the second sentence starts with a subject, you cannot omit the relative pronouns in Spanish. They have to be used always.


Quien can be used with prepositions:

a quien: who, whom, to whom

con quien: with whom

de quien: about whom

la mujer de quien habló es su hermana (the womon of whom he spoke is his sister)

el que

Actually there are four forms which are used according to the gender and the number of the noun:

el que for referring to masculine and singular nouns 

la que for referring to feminine and singular nouns

los que for referring to masculine and pulural nouns

las que for referring to feminine and plural nouns

They can be used for people and for things. One uses these forms instead of que when it is necessary to differentiate the person or the thing among other similar people:

Mi tío, el que es profesor, llegará pronto (My uncle, the one who is a teacher, will arrive soon)

Mi hermana,  la que vive en Argentina, tiene treinta años. (My sister, the one who lives in Argentine, is thirty years old)

Note that instead of el que versions, quien can be used very often:

quien no estudia, no aprende (the one who does not study, cannot learn)

How to say "whose" 

Whose is cuyo. Similar to el que versions, there are four forms: 

cuyo  for  referring masculine and singular nouns 

cuya for referring to feminine and singular nouns

cuyos for referring to masculine and pulural nouns

cuyas for referring to feminine and plural nouns

But be careful. Because the number and the gender must agree with the thing or things that is / are possessed, not with the person! This is because the cuyo and its versions are possesive adjectives. 

La chica cuyo libro tengo es mi prima (The girl whose book I have is my cousin)

La chica cuyos libros tengo es mi prima (The girl whose books I have is my cousin)

How to say "where" 

As you might expect "donde" is used as the relative pronoun "where", i.e. without the accent of the interrogative. 

Es la escuela donde estudio (This is the school where I study)


Review the relative pronouns in Spanish

que who, whom,which,that

quien/quienes who

el que / la que / los que / las que  who, which

lo que that

cuyo cuya / cuyos / cuyas whose

donde where

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