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How to use Spanish relative pronouns and adjectives?

11 Apr, 2017 Popular Articles
How to use Spanish relative pronouns and adjectives?2 votes. 5 / 5

Relative pronouns are those used to refer back to something mentioned previously, usually a noun. And the noun, pronoun, or the phrase which the relative pronoun refers to is called an antecedent. Relative pronouns are often used to link or connect two short sentences and avoid repetition. In English, there are some most common relative pronouns including who, which, that, when, where, whom, and whoever. Here in this article, we will show you a list of Spanish relative pronouns, examples of using relative pronouns in sentences, and guides on how to use relative pronouns in Spanish.

List of common Spanish relative pronouns and adjectives

  • Que – that – used to refer to people or things
  • Quien/quienes (plural) - who (or whom, after a preposition) – used to refer to people
  • el que, la que, los que, las que - that, which, who, whom               
  • el cual, la cual, los cuales, las cuales - that, which, who, whom
  • cuando – when
  • donde – where
  • cuyo, cuyas – whose

List of Spanish relative pronouns and adjectivesCommon Spanish relative pronouns


1. Que = That

  • “Que” is used when the relative pronoun comes right after the antecedent or when there is nothing separates the two of them, even a comma.
  • “Que” can be used for both people and objects

For example:

The woman that/who lives there is my aunt - La mujer que vive allí es mi tía.


  • “Que” should not be used after some prepositions such as porque (because), para que (so that), or sin que (without).
  • It can also be used after a very short separation from the antecedent when referring to places/things.


This is the house in which I grew up - Ésta es la casa en que crecí.

Have you been to the café (that) I was talking about? - ¿Has ido al café del que hablaba?

2. Quien

Quien (Singular) , Quienes (Plural) – Who

  • Quien can be used when referring to a person and there is some distance between the relative pronoun and the antecedent (a comma/one- or two-syllable preposition). It is also used after some prepositions such as para, con, etc.


María es la mujer con quien quería casarme - María is the woman I wanted to marry

Mi tía, quien es doctora, me va a visitar hoy - My aunt, who is a doctor, is going to visit me today.


  • “Quien” is not used if the relative pronoun follows the antecedent immediately even when it refers to a person. In this case, “que” should be used instead.

3. El que and El cual

“El que” (masculine, singular) and its other forms: los que (plural form of el que, masculine), la que (singular, feminine), las que (plural, feminine) are often used when there is more distance between the relative pronoun and the antecedent (like a comma or a one-word preposition).


  • It can be used with “sin”, “que”, “por”, and “para”.


¿Recuerdas las playas de las que hablamos ayer? - Do you remember the beaches that we were talking about yesterday?

Perdí los documentos sin los que no puedo matricularme - I lost the documents without which I can't register.

“El cual” and its other forms: los cual, la cuales, las cuales are used if there is a great distance between the relative pronoun and the antecedent such as a compound preposition.

See gender of nouns in Spanish for more information!

El cual is often used after some compound prepositions including:

  • Acerca de (about, concerning)
  • Al lado de (beside)
  • Antes de (before)
  • Cerca de (near)
  • Debajo de (underneath)
  • Delante de (in front of)
  • Dentro de (inside)
  • Después de (after)
  • Detrás de (behind)
  • Por encima de (on top of)

For example:

Cerró los párpados, detrás de los cuales parecían bailar los ojos - He closed his eyelids, behind which his eyes seemed to dance.


Neuter relative pronouns are used to refer to a situation/concept that is not specifically masculine or feminine

1. Lo cual

  • “Lo cual” can only be used when referring to something that has already been mentioned in the same sentence.

For example:

Él siempre se jacta, lo cual me molesta mucho - He always brags, which really annoys me.

2. Lo que

  • Lo que can be used like “lo cual”. However, it can also be used to refer to something that hasn’t been mentioned or brought up before. Therefore, it can be used at the beginning of an utterance.


No puedo contarte lo que escuché en la escuela hoy - I can’t tell you what I heard at school today.

Lo que dijiste no tiene sentido - What you said doesn't make any sense


  • “Lo que” should be used if you use non-specific pronouns like eso, esto, todo, etc.

Que quien and lo que in Spanish

Usage of que, quien, and lo que in Spanish


Cuyo/cuya/cuyas/cuyos (whose)

This relative adjective must match the noun it modifies in both gender and number.


Ella es la pobrecita cuyo esposo nos enfadó - She's the poor woman whose husband made us angry.

Los chicos, cuyas manos estaban sucias, no quisieron lavarse - The kids, whose hands were filthy, refused to wash up.


Cuando (when), Done (where)

These relatives can also serve just as their English counterparts.


¿Recuerdas cuando descibrimos esa caverna? - Do you remember when we discovered that cave?

El pueblo donde crecí ya no existe - The town where I grew up no longer exists.

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