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Spanish Relative Pronouns, Part 1:El que, La que, Los que, Las que

Are you familiar with the Spanish relative pronouns el que, la que, los que and las que? Do you know how to use them? Today's lesson will explain the differences and similarities between these four Spanish phrases, all of which are most typically translated as "the one" or "ones that" or "who." 


Gender and Number Agreement 

Like other relative pronouns, el quela quelos que and las que are used to introduce relative clauses, which provide more information about a noun or noun phrase. Let's see an example:


Al principio, las traducciones al español son las que serán visibles para los estudiantes.

At first, the translations to Spanish are the ones that will be visible for the students.

Captions 39-40, Tutoriales de Yabla Cómo crear clases

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Here, las que is used to introduce the relative clause serán visibles para los estudiantes, making it clear that the "the ones" referenced are those that "will be visible for the students." Note that, in this case, las que is chosen because it refers to the feminine plural noun las traducciones (the translations) as these relative pronouns must agree with the nouns they refer to in terms of number and gender as broken down below:


el que ("the one that" or "who" for masculine singular nouns)

la que ("the one that" or "who" for feminine singular nouns)

los que ("the ones that" or "who" or "those" for masculine plural or mixed nouns)

las que ("the ones that" or "who" or "those" for feminine plural nouns)



The noun to which the relative pronoun refers is known as an antecedent or referent. Be aware that while antecedents are sometimes mentioned explicitly in sentences containing the relative pronouns el quela quelos que and las que (as was las traducciones in the aforementioned example), in other cases, the speaker understands what is being referenced based on the previous conversation. Let's look at each of these relative pronouns in sentences with and without antecedents.


El que


Ese dato es el que necesitamos, hermano.

That piece of information is the one that we need, brother.

Caption 27, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 4 - Part 12

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Here, we see that the relative pronoun el que refers to the masculine singular antecedent dato (piece of information). 


No Antecedent: 

¿El que me había robado a Cata?

The one who had stolen Cata from me?

Caption 5, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 11 - Part 2

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Although there is no antecedent in the sentence, we know from the previous dialogue that the speaker is referring to a boy named Sergio Casas, warranting the choice of the singular masculine el que. Remember that even though the third person singular male pronoun él has an accent to distinguish it from el meaning "the," the relative pronoun el que should not be written with an accent, even when referring to a specific male person.


La que


Yo soy la que le da el toque especial al grupo.

I'm the one who gives the group that special touch.

Caption 21, X6 1 - La banda - Part 6

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In this case, the female speaker's use of the word Yo (I) sheds light on her choice of the feminine singular la que.


No Antecedent: 

La que cantaste.

The one you sang.

Caption 6, Hispanoamericanos en Berlín Karla y Fernando hablan de música

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Here, it is clear to the listener based on the subjects' conversation topic that the speakers is referring to una canción (a song).


Los que


clientes como usted son los que necesitamos.

clients like you are the ones we need.

Caption 49, La Sucursal del Cielo Capítulo 2 - Part 10

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The inclusion of the noun clientes leaves no doubt as to what los que refers to.


No Antecedent: 

Los que viven en sus casas siempre andan por su misma zona

The ones who live in their homes always roam around their same area

Caption 25, Fermín y los gatos Mis gatas vecinas

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Since gatos (cats) is the subject of the video, we understand that los que refers to them. Let's see an additional example where los que is translated as "those":


Para los que no me conocen, mi nombre es Karina García

For those who don't know me, my name is Karina García,

Caption 2, Venezolanos por el mundo Karina en Barcelona - Part 2

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Las que


cosas parecidas a las que hacemos con los textos en papel.

things similar to the ones we do with text on paper.

Caption 13, Club de las ideas Libertexto

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The feminine plural noun cosas is stated prior to las que to let us know the antecedent.


No Antecedent:

Y las que te faltan por conocer.

And the ones that you still have to experience.

Caption 40, La Sucursal del Cielo Capítulo 1 - Part 10

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Interestingly, las que also refers to las cosas (the things) here, which came up one sentence prior in this conversation. 


El que, La que, Los que or Las que With Prepositions

Note that when the relative pronouns el que, los que, la que and las que are preceded by prepositions, they can be translated with a vast array of terms such as "which," "that," "when, "where," "who" or "whom," dpending upon what they refer to. Let's take a look at some examples where we have also highlighted the prepositions that accompany these relative pronouns. 


El material con el que fue construido

The material with which it was built

Caption 14, Paseando con Karen Bienvenidos a Parque Fundidora

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Madrid es una ciudad en la que se respira historia.

Madrid is a city where one breathes history.

Caption 19, Con Marta por Madrid Lavapiés y la corrala - Part 1

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Another possible translation in this example would be "in which."


Cada noche escribo en él las cosas por las que estoy agradecida.

Every night, I write in it the things that I'm grateful for.

Captions 42-43, Aprendiendo con Silvia Las emociones - Part 13

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Although "for which" could be an alternative, more formal translation, "that" is the more colloquial choice. 


Ha habido días en los que había más de treinta incendios activos,

There have been days on which there were more than thirty active fires

Caption 48, Soledad Incendios

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You probably inferred that "when" could substitute "on which" in this utterance. Let's see one more:


como una persona muy distinta a mí y con la que yo no podría tener una conversación distendida

as a very different person from me and with whom I wouldn't be able to have a relaxed conversation

Captions 54-55, Soledad Los prejuicios

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That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has helped you to better understand the somewhat tricky relative pronouns el que, la que, los que and las que and their different uses and translations, and don't forget to write us with your questions and comments.



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