Spanish relative pronouns: que, quien, el que, el cual, cuyo, cuando, donde

Relative pronouns

Relative pronouns are words that can substitute a noun, adjective or a phrase. The noun, pronoun or phrase to which the relative pronoun refers is called an "antecedent". 


-My friend is a writer. My friend writes novels. Here we can use who (relative pronoun) to substitute 'friend' (antecedent):

       -> My friend, who is a writer, writes novels

In English, relative pronouns are 'who, which, where, that..' And in Spanish, they are: que, quien, el que, la que..etc

       -> My friend, who is a writer, writes novels





This is the most frequently used relative pronoun that means who, which or that in English. It refers to people, places, things and abstract ideas. It has to be used when the pronoun comes immediately after the antecedent.


-La mujer (antecedent) que vive allí es mi tía (the woman that/who lives there is my aunt)

'Que' can also be used with a little separation from the antecedent such as a comma or a short preposition. However, if there is a short preposition and the relative pronoun refers to a person, you must use 'quien'.


  • Es el chico con quien hablé (he is the boy whom I talked to)

El que

El que and other forms such as la que, los que, las que must agree in gender and number with the antecedent. It could be used with the prepositions por, sin or para


  • ¿Te acuerdas de la película de la que hablamos ayer? (Do you remember the film which we were talking about yesterday?)



El cual

El cual, and (la cual, los cuales, las cuales) also has to match in gender and number with the antecedent. There is a long distance between the antecedent and the relative, and it is common to use a long preposition.


-Pasamos por el bar cerca (preposition) del cual nos conocimos (we passed by the bar which is near to where we met/ we passed by the bar near to which we met)



When we cannot use que/quien/el que/el cual is the turn of cuyo, which is whose in English. However, you must consider the fact that it has to agree in gender and number with the antecedent (cuyo,cuya,cuyos,cuyas)


  • La mujer, cuyo pelo era rubio, es la jefa (The lady, whose hair was blond, is the boss)

Cuando, donde

We can also use cuando (when) and donde (where) as relative pronouns in the same way we use when and where in English.


  • Este es el lugar donde te conocí (this is the place where I met you)

  • Por las tardes, cuando no trabajo, voy a bailar (In the evenings, when I don't work, I go to dance)

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