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A relative pronoun links a dependent / relative clause (i.e., a clause that cannot stand alone) to a main clause. The Spanish relative pronoun el que usually means "who" or "whom" and has four different forms:
|masc||el que||los que|
|fem||la que||las que|
Characteristics of el que
- Joins a main clause to a dependent or relative clause
- Replaces one or more words
- May refer to people or things
- Agrees in gender and number with the noun it replaces
- Is used almost exactly like el cual – they are nearly always interchangeable*
A non-restrictive clause does not limit the noun it replaces, but rather adds additional information that could be omitted without substantially changing the meaning of the sentence. In non-restrictive clauses, el que can be the subject or the object.
|El profesor va a ayudarnos. Él vive en Barcelona.||The teacher is going to help us. He lives in Barcelona.|
|El profesor, el que vive en Barcelona, va a ayudarnos.||The teacher, who lives in Barcelona, is going to help us.|
|Conocí a esas mujeres ayer. Ellas son hermanas.||I met those women yesterday. They are sisters.|
|Conocí a esas mujeres, las que son hermanas, ayer.||I met those women, who are sisters, yesterday.|
In restrictive clauses, where the information after the relative pronoun is essential to the meaning of the sentence, el que simultaneously replaces an antecedent and is the object of a preposition.
|Hay una mesa. Como en esa mesa.||There’s a table. I eat at that table.|
|Esa es la mesa en la que como.||That’s the table at which I eat. / That’s the table I eat at.|
|Ana quiere al hombre. Yo lo vi.||Ana loves the man. I saw him.|
|Ana quiere al hombre al que yo vi.||Ana loves the man (that) I saw.|
|Los estudiantes están aquí. Hablaba de ellos.||The students are here. I was talking about them.|
|Los estudiantes de los que hablaba están aquí.||The students about whom I was talking are here.
The students (whom) I was talking about are here.
Accents matter! El que is a relative pronoun while qué is an interrogative pronoun.
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