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Lo que vs. Lo de: What's the Difference?

Do you know the word lo in Spanish? You may have learned lo as a direct object pronoun, in which case it typically replaces a singular, masculine noun to mean "him" or "it."  The focus of today's lesson, however, will be two common Spanish phrases with lo that learners of the language sometimes confuse: lo que and lo de. Let's find out how they differ!


Lo que

Lo que in Spanish is a neuter relative pronoun whose most common translations are "what," "which," "that which," or "the thing that." It is always followed by a conjugated verb and refers either to some concept, idea, or situation within the sentence or serves to add additional information about something that has been previously mentioned in it. Let's see some examples.


Ahora lo que vamos a hacer es dar un gran paseo por la playa

What we're going to do now is take a long walk along the beach

Caption 5, Amaya Mi camper van

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Marcela, ¿estás segura que esto es lo que quieres?

Marcela, are you sure that this is what you want?

Caption 1, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 2

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Solamente Estados Unidos produce setecientos treinta y cinco kilos de desechos por persona y año, lo que equivale a dos kilogramos diarios por persona y día.

Just the United States produces seven hundred thirty-five kilos of waste per person per year, which is equivalent to two kilograms daily per person per day.

Captions 14-17, 3R Campaña de reciclaje - Part 1

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Lo de 

In contrast to lo que, lo de can be followed by various parts of speech such as infinitive verbs, nouns, etc. While a formal translation for lo de might be "the matter concerning," it roughly corresponds to such English phrases as "the thing about" or "the ... thing," with possible additional implications depending upon the context. Let's look at some captions that include it.


¿Ya sabe lo de Casas y Cata?

Do you know the thing about Casas and Cata yet?

Caption 62, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 8 - Part 1

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Porque nos dices que es, eh... haces también lo de las motos, ¿no? -Sí.

Because you say to us that it's, um... you also do the motorcycle thing, right? -Yes.

Caption 16, Rueda de la muerte Parte 2

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Primero que nada, pedirte perdón por lo de ayer.

First of all, to apologize for [what happened] yesterday.

Caption 12, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 5 - Part 4

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Note that, in this last example, since the speaker is apologizing to the listener for something they both know happened, the implication could vary depending upon what it was, e.g., for "what happened," "what I did/said," etc. 


With that said, we hope that this lesson has helped you to learn the difference between the Spanish expressions lo que and lo de. If you want to learn more expressions that include the word lo in Spanish, we recommend this one on the formula lo + adjective. In the meantime, don't forget to write us with any questions or suggestions.


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