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Spanish language Spanish Relative Pronoun El Cual ~ Pronombres relativos

Just like in English, a Spanish relative pronoun links a dependent/relative clause (i.e., a clause that cannot stand alone) to a main clause. In this lesson we'll discuss el cual, which literally means who or whom and has four different forms. Note that in Spanish, relative pronouns are required, whereas in English, they are sometimes optional.

The relative pronoun el cual agrees in gender and number with the noun it replaces:

el cual

los cuales
la cual las cuales

El cual joins a main clause to a dependent or relative clause, replaces one or more words, and may refer to people or things. El cual is used almost exactly like el que - they are nearly always interchangeable.*

In nonrestrictive clauses (where the relative pronoun does not limit the person or thing it replaces), el cual can be both the subject and the object:

El profesor va a ayudarnos. Él vive en Barcelona. 
El profesor, el cual vive en Barcelona, va a ayudarnos. 

The teacher, who lives in Barcelona, is going to help us.

Las chicas quieren trabajar juntas. Ellas son hermanas.
Las chicas, las cuales son hermanas, quieren trabajar juntas.

The girls, who are sisters, want to work together.

El cual can simultaneously replace a human antecedent and be the object of a preposition:

Ana quiere al hombre. Yo lo vi.
Ana quiere al hombre al cual yo vi.
Ana loves the man (that) I saw.

Las chicas no han llegado. Mi hermano trabaja con ellas.
Las chicas con las cuales mi hermano trabaja no han llegado.

The girls with whom my brother works haven't arrived.

Los estudiantes están aquí. Hablaba de ellos.
Los estudiantes de los cuales hablaba están aquí.

The students about whom I was talking are here (or The students [whom] I was talking about are here).

*There are a few situations in which el cual should be used. Aside from being somewhat more formal than el que, el cual is usually used in the following cases:

1. When the relative pronoun is separated from its antecedent, either by other words or some sort of grammatical pause (such as a colon or period):

Hay un perro en mi barrio, el cual ladra toda la noche.
There's a dog in my neighborhood who barks all night.

Cuando fui al mercado, había un problema con mi tarjeta de crédito; el cual fue arreglado por mi banco.
When I went to the store, there was a problem with my credit card; it was fixed by my bank.

2. After most multi-syllable prepositions and prepositional phrases:

Las enfermedades contra las cuales luchamos
The diseases we are fighting against

La casa frente a la cual yo vivo
The house I live across from

3. After según, when it means "according to":

El principio según el cual...
The principle according to which...

La profesora según la cual...
The teacher according to whom...

4. After indefinite pronouns and expressions of quantity:

Vi a los estudiantes, algunos de los cuales me saludaron.
I saw the students, some of whom waved at me.

Tengo una casa en Madrid, la mitad de la cual es aquilada.
I have a house in Madrid, half of which is rented.


Spanish Pronouns Spanish Prepositions

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