Introduction to Relative Pronouns  

Relative Pronouns and Adjectives

Quick explanation:
The two most common relative pronouns in Spanish are:
  • que - who, which, that
  • quien - who

Que is invariable, and either as subject or object of a verb refers to persons or things.

  • el hombre que vino - the man who came
  • los hombres que vimos - the men whom we saw
  • la casa en que vivo - the house in which I live
  • los libros de que hablo - the books of which I speak

Quien (plural quienes) agrees in number with its antecedent, and refers only to persons.

  • el hombre a quien vi - the man whom I saw
  • las niñas de quienes hablo - the girls of whom I speak

When que refers to persons it cannot follow a preposition.

  • la casa en que vivo - the house in which I live
  • la niña que vi - the child whom I saw
  • la niña a quien vi - the child whom I saw

Relative pronouns are NEVER omitted in Spanish as it sometimes does in English.

  • la sillas que compré - the chairs I bought

The preposition always precedes the relative pronoun.

  • el señor de quien le hablé - the gentleman I spoke to you about.
Long Explanation:
The relative pronouns el cual (la cual, los cuales, las cuales, lo cual), el que (la que, los que, las que, lo que), are also used for que, quien, in cases of ambiguity, when the antecedent is lengthy or widely separated from the relative, or when it is necessary to distinguish between nouns differing in gender or number.
Deseo un criado y una criada, y un secretario del cual me pueda fiar.
I desire a womanservant and a manservant, and a secretary in whom I can trust.
Nos contaron unos cuentos interesantes y chistosos con los cuales nos divertimos mucho.
They told us a few interesting and humorous stories with which we were much amused.
Daba siempre regalos a los niños, con los que ellos se divertían mucho.
He always gave presents to the children, with which they amused themselves much.

The neuter forms lo que, lo cual refer to a whole clause, idea, or phrase:

Me dió un libro, lo cual me alegró.
He gave me a book, a thing which pleased me.

Quien may often include its antecedent:

Quien le dió la caja fué ella.
She was the one who gave her the box.
Quien fué ayer lo hizo.
He who went yesterday did it.

Cuyo (-a, -os, -as) is a relative adjective (possessive) and refers to either persons or things. It agrees in gender and number with the person or thing possessed.

el hombre cuyo valor (= el valor del cual or el valor de quien) es bien conocido
the man whose courage is well known
Viví en una aldea cuyo nombre (= el nombre de la cual) he olvidado.
I lived in a village, the name of which I have forgotten.

Cuanto (-a, -os, -as) may also be used as a relative. As a relative it may include its antecedent and means 'as much as,' ' as many as,' ' all that':

Me dió cuanto tenía.
He gave me all he had.
Habló a cuantas personas pudo.
He spoke to as many persons as he could.

Relative Pronouns




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