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Los Pronombres Relativos:
QUE, EL QUE, LO QUE
The Relative Pronouns1 are commonly used to link two sentences that give information about people or things avoiding their repetition and they usually refer back to a person or a thing mentioned in the main sentence. Today we are going to look at "que", "el que" and "lo que".
The relative pronoun "que" refers back to people or objects that have previously been stated. The pronouns "el que, la que, los que, las que" also refer to people and objects, but their usage is different to "que" and the article that goes with them has to agree in gender and number with the noun they refer, called the antecedent2.
However, the relative pronoun "lo que" refers neither to people nor objects but ideas or situations. Click here to see a high resolution image.
"Que" has two functions; as a link and as a pronoun.
a) As a link between two clauses. The reflexive pronoun does not require an antecedent as it simply works as a link between two sentences.
1. Pedro dice que está estudiando. (Pedro says (that) he is studying.)
b) As a pronoun. It is invariable, refers to people and things and always takes an antecedent.
2. El hombre que vive allí es mi amigo. (The man that/who lives there is my friend.)
3. El coche que te gusta está allí. (The car that/which you like is there.)
4. Mi amigo, que/el cual es profesor de inglés, llegará pronto. (My friend, who is an English teacher, will arrive soon.)
5. Mis amigas, que/las cuales son profesoras de inglés, llegarán pronto. (My friends, who are English teachers, will arrive soon.)
Note: The pronouns "el/la cual, los/las cuales" can be used in place of "que" in explanatory sentences where we want to give more detail and clarify what person or thing we are talking about. This sentence is separated by commas (see examples 4 and 5)
EL QUE, LA QUE, LOS QUE, LAS QUE
The pronouns "el/la que, las/los que" refer to people and things and never take an antecedent because:
a) They appear at the beginning of a sentence.
6. El que tiene el pelo rubio es mi primo. (That one that has blonde hair is my cousin.)
In this situation "el que" is equal to a demonstrative adjective: "este", "ese", "aquel".
7. Ese que tiene el pelo rubio es mi primo. (That one that has blonde hair is my cousin.)
b) Listener and speaker know what they are talking about.
8. ¿Me dejas uno de tus lápices? - Sí, coje el que quieras? (Can I borrow one of your pencils? - Sure, take the one you want.)
c) They go after a preposition that separates the antecedent from the relative pronoun.
9. Mi amigo, con el que voy a Barcelona, llegará pronto. (My friend, with who I am going to Barcelona, will arrive soon.)
10. ¿Has hablado con (todos) los que estaban en esa lista? (Have you talked to everyone who was on that list?)
Note: Often, they can take "todo/a/os/as" before the article. See example 10.
The pronoun "lo que" does not refer to people or things but an idea or situation. Normally, it can be used in place of "la cosa que" or "aquello que".
11. ¿Has hecho lo que te dije? (Have you done what I told you?)
12. Yo sé lo que quieres hacer. (I know what you want to do.)
13. ¿Me dices lo que estás pensando? (Will you tell me what you are thinking?)
14. No entiendo lo que está pasando. (I don't understand what is happening.)
15. Lo que quieres no existe (What you want doesn't exist.)
The pronoun "lo que" also appears in some colloquial phrases:
16. Lo que tú digas, estoy harto de discutir contigo. (Whatever, I'm done arguing with you.)
17. Lleva 2 años engañándole con otro, sí, lo que oyes. (She has been cheating on him for 2 years, I'm telling you!)
18. ¡Oh no! Tengo muchas cosas que hacer y, encima, lo que faltaba, el ordenador no funciona. (I have got a lot of things to do and now my computer isn't working, great, just what I needed.)
19. Somos muchos pero, lo que me temía, ninguno de nosotros sabe hablar español. (There are a lot of us but none of us can speak Spanish, oh well, just what I feared.)
1. Pronombre relativo. In English, relative pronouns. Relative pronouns are called "relative" because they are related to a noun that has previously been stated.
2. Antecedente. The antecedent is the noun which the relative pronoun refer to and usually appears right before the pronoun in the sentence.
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