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The Many Uses of the Spanish Word Que (With and Without an Accent)!

You may have learned that the Spanish word que without an accent most commonly means "that," while its accented version qué tends to function like the English word "what" within questions. However, since both versions of que in Spanish can be employed as different parts of speech and within different constructions, with varying English translations, today's lesson will lay out many of these with plenty of examples from the Yabla Spanish library. 


Uses of Que in Spanish Without an Accent


1. Que as a Pronoun Meaning "That" or "Who"

In this usage, que is used like "that" or "who" in English to introduce essential characteristics. Let's see some examples:


En esta aula tan solo había un chico que era español;

In this classroom, there was only one boy who was Spanish,

Caption 23, Aprendiendo con Silvia - Nacionalidades y adjetivos - Part 1

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Se lo comen todo, hasta un aceite que huele a orégano.

They eat everything, even an oil that smells like oregano.

Caption 43, Amaya Burras a dieta

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2. Que as a Pronoun to Introduce Additional Information 

Sometimes, que functions like the English words "who," "that," or "which" to introduce additional, or nonessential, information, in which case it is typically set off by commas as in the following caption:


Así que Poeska, que es demasiado buena, optaba por irse

So Poeska, who is too nice, would choose to leave

Caption 64, Fermín y los gatos Mi gata Bimba

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3. Que as a Conjunction Meaning "Because" or "Since"

This less formal use of the word que could be translated with the English words "because" or "since":


Ay, no te quejés tanto, que mañana me tenés que llevar a hacer unas vuelticas.

Oh, don't complain so much since tomorrow, you have to take me to run some errands.

Caption 4, La Sucursal del Cielo Capítulo 2 - Part 8

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4. Que as a Conjunction Meaning "Than" 

Que is often used as the Spanish equivalent of "than" for making comparisons in Spanish


Eres más compleja que tu madre.

You're more complex than your mother.

Caption 60, Yago - 6 Mentiras - Part 5

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5. Que to Introduce a Subordinate Clause Expressing a Statement or Hypothesis 

In this case, the word que comes between a verb and a subsequent conjecture or statement. Let's take a look:


Recuerde que todo el país tiene los ojos en usted

Remember that the whole country has its eyes on you,

Caption 62, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 3 - Part 5

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Y bueno, yo creo que Lukas se nos ha quedado dormido.

And well, I think Lukas has fallen asleep on us.

Caption 57, Amaya Mi camper van

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Note that while, in the first example, the word que has been translated as "that," in the second example, it has not been translated at all. This is because, although the word que is necessary in such constructions in Spanish, its English equivalent is often optional (the word "that" could also be left out of the first example). Furthermore, remember that if what follows que is a wish or desire, the next verb must be conjugated in a subjunctive tense, as follows:


No queremos que nuestra ley parezca demasiado blanda.

We don't want our law to look too lenient.

Caption 25, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 2 - Part 14

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6. Que + Subjunctive to Say "Hopefully" or "May"

And speaking of the subjunctive, the word que can be used along with a subjunctive verb to give the idea that one "hopes" or desires something, or in the way that English speakers use "May..." 


Que descanses. -Gracias.

[I hope you] sleep well. -Thanks.

Caption 12, Yago 8 Descubrimiento - Part 3

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¡Que suenen las voces del himno nacional,

May the voices of the national anthem sound,

Caption 39, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 5 - Part 8

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Uses of Qué in Spanish With an Accent

There are two main uses of the word qué in Spanish with a tilde, or written accent. Let's find out what they are. 


1. For Direct and Indirect Questions

The word qué in Spanish with a written accent is the equivalent of "what" in English and appears in both direct and indirect questions, or statements that include unknown information. Let's see an example of each:


¿Y tú, Cleer, qué idiomas hablas?

And you, Cleer, what languages do you speak?

Caption 18, Cleer y Lida ¿Qué idiomas hablas?

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porque todavía no se sabe de qué rincón o de qué carta se está hablando.

because it's still not known what corner or what letter is being spoken about.

Captions 46-47, Carlos explica Los artículos en español - Part 3

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2. For Exclamations or Interjections

Qué with an accent can also mean "how" or "what" within exclamations or interjections like the following:


¡Ah, qué rico!

Oh, how tasty!

Caption 40, Cleer y Lida Juego de preguntas y respuestas - Part 2

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¡Pero qué chica más inteligente!

But what a smart girl!

Caption 27, Muñeca Brava 43 La reunión - Part 5

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That's all for today. Although the many uses of the Spanish word que can feel a bit overwhelming, we hope that this lesson has clarified for you many of the major ones, and don't forget to write us with your questions or comments

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