Relative Pronouns

Spanish relative pronouns
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Pronombres relativos

Relative pronouns are connectors – they link relative clauses (i.e., clauses that cannot stand alone) to main clauses so that you don’t have to repeat subjects and objects. If any of these grammatical concepts are unclear to you, please study those lessons before reading this one.

Characteristics of relative pronouns

  1. Connect relative and main clauses
  2. Can be subjects, direct objects, or objects of a preposition
  3. Are required in Spanish, though they are sometimes optional in English

There are six Spanish relative pronouns: que, quien, el que, el cual, cuando, and donde. These are equivalent to seven English relative pronouns and adverbs: that, when, where, which, who, whom, and whose. I can’t give you a nice Spanish relative pronoun = English relative pronoun/adverb list, because the grammar is somewhat different in the two languages, and there are two or more possible English translations some of the  Spanish pronouns, depending on the context.

Here’s a summary of Spanish relative pronouns with their functions and possible translations – click to read detailed lessons on each one.

Pronoun   Function(s)   English equivalents
Cuando   Time indicator   when
Donde   Place indicator   where
El cual   Subject
Direct object
Object of preposition
  who
whom
which, whom, that
El que   Subject
Direct object
Object of preposition
  who
whom
which, whom, that
Que   Subject
Direct object
  that, which, who
that, which, whom
Quien   Subject
Object of preposition
  who
which, whom, that

 Note: In Spanish, relative pronouns are required, whereas in English, they are sometimes optional.

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Pronombres relativos