Relative Pronouns Spanish: 7 relative pronouns in Spanish you have to know!

When learning a new language, there’s a special set of words that act like glue, sticking sentences together to give them more meaning. In Spanish, these words are known as ‘relative pronouns Spanish’.

Just like a magic key, they unlock the doors to fluent and sophisticated speaking. If you are learning Spanish, it is super handy to know about these words. Let’s discover these special relative pronouns and see how they can join our sentence-friends together to play nicely and make sense.

For start, we have a video brought to you by Spring Spanish (I’m a co-founder of this project!) teacher Cory. She explains the difference between qué and cual, two really important relative pronouns in Spanish:

What are relative pronouns in Spanish?

Effortless Answers

Relative pronouns in Spanish are little words that connect two ideas into one smooth sentence. They are the puzzle pieces that fit different parts of a sentence together without making any piece feel left out.

They can be tricky to use, but once you get the hang of them, they make your sentences richer and your conversations flow better.

7 Spanish relative pronouns

SpanishEnglish
quethat/who/which
quien/quieneswho/whom
el quethe one that
el cualwhich/whom
cuyowhose
dondewhere
cuandowhen

1. Que (That, who, which)

Que‘ is a super common relative pronoun that is very easy to use.

You can think of it as a Swiss Army knife because it can mean ‘that’, ‘who’, or ‘which’. It’s like a superhero word that can change its identity depending on the job it has to do in a sentence.

Let’s see how this works in action:

  1. El libro que leíste es interesante. (The book that you read is interesting.)
  2. La señora que vino ayer es mi tía. (The lady who came yesterday is my aunt.)
  3. Los coches que son rápidos me gustan mucho. (The cars which are fast I like a lot.)
a hand pointing on a book explaining the relative pronouns Spanish
El libro que leíste es interesante. (The book that you read is interesting.)

2. Quien (Who, Whom)

Now let’s talk about ‘quien‘.

It’s a word used to talk about people, kind of like saying ‘who’ or ‘whom’ in English. It’s like when you are pointing out someone at a party and saying, “Hey, that’s the person who helped me with my homework!”

We use ‘quienes’ if we’re talking about more than one person.

Check the singular and plural form of it!

  1. La chica quien habla es mi hermana. (The girl who is speaking is my sister.)
  2. El hombre a quien buscas está allí. (The man whom you are looking for is there.)
  3. Mis amigos, quienes vinieron a la fiesta, son de México. (My friends, who came to the party, are from Mexico.)

3. El que (The one who, the one which)

El que‘ is a bit like ‘quien’, but it can be used for things as well as people.

In English, it could be ‘the one who’ or ‘the one which’

It changes to match whether you’re talking about a guy, a girl, or more than one thing.

Here are some example sentences. Pay attention to gender changes!

  1. El chico el que es alto juega al baloncesto. (The boy, the one who is tall, plays basketball.)
  2. La herramienta con la que trabajo es nueva. (The tool with which I work is new.)
  3. Los documentos los cuales necesitas están en la mesa. (The documents, the ones that you need, are on the table.)

4. El cual (who, whom, which)

El cual‘ is a bit fancy and it’s like ‘el que’, but we dress it up for special occasions, like for formal writing or speaking. Just like ‘el que’, it changes depending on who or what we’re talking about.

  1. La película sobre la cual hablamos es emocionante. (The movie about which we talked is exciting.)
  2. La escuela en la cual estudio es grande. (The school in which I study is big.)
  3. Las plantas las cuales crecen en mi jardín son hermosas. (The plants which grow in my garden are beautiful.)
a high school with a yard showing how relative pronouns Spanish work
La escuela en la cual estudio es grande. (The school in which I study is big.)

5. Cuyo (whose)

Climbing the family tree of Spanish relative pronouns, we find ‘cuyo‘, the pronoun that shows who owns what. It’s like saying ‘whose’ in English. It makes sure everyone knows what belongs to whom.

Here’s how it appears in action:

  1. El niño cuyo perro escapó está triste. (The boy whose dog ran away is sad.)
  2. La señora cuya casa pintamos es muy simpática. (The lady whose house we painted is very kind.)
  3. Los turistas cuyas maletas fueron robadas están en la comisaría. (The tourists whose suitcases were stolen are at the police station.)

6. Donde (where)

Donde‘ is your go-to word when you want to talk about places, similar to ‘where’ in English. It’s like if you dropped a pin on a map and said, “This is the spot where the treasure is buried!”

Here it is in sentences:

  1. La ciudad donde vivo es muy bonita. (The city where I live is very beautiful.)
  2. El parque donde jugamos está cerrado hoy. (The park where we play is closed today.)
  3. El país donde nací tiene montañas altas. (The country where I was born has tall mountains.)

7. Cuando (when)

Cuando‘ translates to ‘when’ and acts as a time pointer in a sentence. It connects actions to specific times or conditions, much like a story tied to a particular moment.

Here’s ‘cuando‘ in action:

  1. Voy al parque cuando hace sol. (I go to the park when it’s sunny.)
  2. Recuerdo cuando jugábamos juntos. (I remember when we used to play together.)
  3. Llámame cuando llegues. (Call me when you arrive.)
A sunny park where people enjoy their free time using relative pronouns Spanish
Voy al parque cuando hace sol. (I go to the park when it’s sunny.)

‘Cuando’ sets the scene for when things happen, applicable to past, present, or future scenarios. It’s like a narrative cue, indicating the timing of the story or action.

(I know, I know, you already had enough of Spanish pronouns, but we have an article full of them. So, if you want, you can check them all out!)

Practice worksheet – Using relative pronouns and adverbs

I. Fill in the blanks with the appropriate relative pronoun from the list: que, quien, quienes, el que, el cual, cuyo, donde, como.

This is just one of our exercises for relative pronouns and adverbs in Spanish. Request the full Practice worksheet and gain access to our Full Practice Library!

Learn relative pronouns Spanish with Conversation Based Chunking (no Spanish grammar needed)

After seeing the above examples, you might be thinking, “But how can I learn all this without getting a headache from all the grammar rules?

No worries!

There’s a way to learn Spanish relative pronouns just by listening and talking a lot in Spanish. Instead of memorizing rules, you focus on chunks of language that native Spanish speakers use all the time. Before you know it, you’ll be using them without even thinking about it!

By paying attention to these keywords in conversations, you’ll pick up on their usage and nuances without getting bogged down by technical Spanish grammar.

Happy chatting with Conversation Based Chunking!

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