Monthly Archives: April 2012

Relative clauses in Spanish 7


In this post I will explain you the relative sentences in Spanish, which are the combination of two sentences that share a common noun, that means that one of the sentences gives more information, modifies or specifies the noun in common. Look at these examples:

– ¿Has visto a esa chica?
– Have you seen that girl?

Esa chica está bailando en medio de la calle.
– That girl is dancing in the street.

¿Has visto a esa chica que está bailando en el medio de la calle?
– Have you seen that girl (that) is dancing in the street?

Here the common noun is “esa chica” and the second sentence specifies what girl I am talking about.

– Ayer me visitó mi vecina con su hijo Manuel.
– Yesterday my neighbor visited me with her son Manuel.

Su hijo es médico.
– Her son is a doctor.

– Ayer me visitó mi vecina con su hijo Manuel, que es médico.
– Yesterday my neighbor visited me with her son who is a doctor.

Here the common noun is “hijo” and the second sentences adds more information about that person.

Relative pronouns

Pronouns are words that refer to a noun. Relative pronouns are called “relative” because they are “related” to a noun that has previously been stated.

  • QUE

The most common relative pronoun, and the one used in the previous two examples is “que“. It can be used to refer to both persons and things, in either the subject or the object position. “Que” can be translated in English by “who”, “whom”, “which” and “that”.

Observe these examples:

– Mi actor favorito, que es muy guapo, se ha casado con una modelo.
– My favorite actor, who is very handsome, has got married with a top model.

In this example the relative is referred to a person and is the subject.

– La película que vi la semana pasada fue malísima.
– The movie that I saw last week was really bad.

And here, the relative pronoun talks about a thing and is the object of the relative clause.

Remember that the relative pronoun is often omitted in English but it is never, ever, omitted in Spanish.

– El libro que estoy leyendo es muy interesante.
– The book (that) I am reading is very interesting.


The relative pronoun “quien” is used only to refer to people. There is no genre distinction but it  has a plural form “quienes” . It’s important to notice that when the relative pronoun refers to a person as the object in the relative clause, you can use either “que” or “quien” and both are correct, but when the relative is followed by a preposition we can only use “quien” and not “que”.

– Mi amiga Pepa, que / quien vive en Australia, viene a visitarme el mes que viene.
– Mi friend Pepa, who lives in Australia, is coming to visit me next month.

– Ese hombre, con quien me viste hablar, es mi jefe.
– That man, with whom you saw me talking, is my boss.

– Pedro a quien entregué el paquete está encargado del proyecto.
– Pedro whom I handed the packet is in charge of the project.


The relative pronoun “el que, la que, los que and las que”  are used to refer to both people and things and are translated in English by “the one who / that”. We can use “el cual, la cual, los cuales and las cuales” instead of “el que…” but those are not used in everyday conversation but for written Spanish or a formal speaking.

– La botella de vino, la que tiene 20 años, está guardada en la bodega.
– The bottle of wine, the one that is 20 years, is kept in the cellar.

It’s important to notice that when the relative pronoun refers to an abstract idea, we have to use “lo que“.

Lo que quieres de él es imposible, es un insensible.
– What you want from him is impossible, he is an insensitive guy.

– No entiendo lo que está escrito en la pizarra.
– I don’t understand what is written in the blackboard.


This relative adjective relates the owner to that which is owned, is the equivalent of “whose” in English. There are four forms according to singular and plural, masculine and feminine.

– El perro cuyo dueño está en ese banco es una monada.
– The dog whose owner is sitting on that bench is a cutie.

– Estéban, cuyas ex novias están en la fiesta, está muy incómodo.
– Estéban, whose ex girlfriends are in the party, is very ill at ease.

Bear in mind that this relative adjective agrees in number and gender with the thing being owned and not with the owner.

– El perro cuyo dueño está en ese banco es una monada.

– Pedro, cuya hermana es muy guapa, es mi amigo.

– Estéban, cuyas ex novias están en la fiesta, está muy incómodo.

– Los estudiantes cuyos exámenes están suspendidos deben pasar por el despacho del director.


First of all, we have to distinguish two types of relative clauses:

  • Explicativas (explanatory): always between commas, are the ones that add information.

– Los estudiantes, cuyos exámenes están suspendidos, deben pasar por el despacho del director.
– The students, whose exams are failed, must visit the the Principal’s office. (All of them failed in the exam so all must visit the principal office)

  • Especificativas (defining): not between commas, specify which group.

–  Los estudiantes cuyos exámenes están suspendidos deben pasar por el despacho del director.
– The students whose exams are failed must visit the the Principal’s office.  (Only the ones that have failed must visit the principal office)


The explanatory clauses, “explicativas”, goes always with indicative.

– Mi novia, que es muy alta, nunca lleva tacones.
– Mi girlfriend, who is very tall, never wears high heels.

The defining clauses, “especificativas”, goes with indicative or subjunctive depending on the antecedent word the clause refers to.

For instance, if the antecedent exist or we know it, we use indicative:

– Los estudiantes que han hecho los deberes todos los días no tendrán que hacer el examen.
– The students who have done the homework every day, won’t need to do the exam.

In this example, I know that some of the students have done the homework every day, so only those ones won’t need to do the exam.

But if we don’t know if the antecedent exists or we don’t know it, we use subjunctive

The students que hayan hecho los deberes todos los días no tendrás que hacer el examen.
– The students who have done the homework every day, won’t need to do the exam.

Here, in this example, I don’t know yet what students have done the homework every day or if there are even students who have done the homework every day, but only those ones won’t need to do the exam.

“Ser” or “Estar”: the answer 2

One of the most difficult things of learning Spanish is that there are two verbs that are the equivalent of the verb “to be”, these two verbs are “ser” and “estar“. The uses of these two verbs is quite a complex thing that could be the subject of a whole thesis and still there would be unexplained nuances left.

The good news is that I’m going to give you the answer. I’ll explain you what you need to know in order to have a very good understanding of how these two verbs are used.

  • First difference: condition vs. essence

Look at these sentences:

1. This apple is green, it hasn’t fall from the tree yet.

2. This apple is green and the other is red.

As you can see this two sentences have different meanings even though they use the same words. The first sentence talks about the condition of the apple, it’s green, it’s not ripe but when the time passes the apple will no longer be green but ripe. Whereas in sentence number two, the verb is talking about an essential characteristic of the apple, its color is green and this color won’t change with the time.

In Spanish we use estar” to express the condition, something that is variable or might change with time, whereas we use ser” with the essential characteristics.

1. Esta manzana está verde, aún no ha caído del árbol.

2. Esta manzana es verde y la otra es roja.

One thing you can do to know which verb you should use in Spanish is ask “how that thing is?” or “what something is?”. If you use the the first question then you need to use “estar“, if you use the second, then you need to use “ser“.

Poner ejemplos:

  • Second difference: express origin, location and “take place”

Look at these sentences:

– Pierce Brosnan is Irish.
Pierce Brosnan es irlandés.

– The Blarney Stone is in Ireland.
La piedra de Blarney está en Irlanda.

– The Leperchaun party is in the Irish forests.
La fiesta de los Leperchaun es en los bosques irlandeses.

The first sentence express origin, where someone or something comes from we use “ser“, to express location, where someone or something is placed / located we use “estar” and to express where something takes place we use “ser“.

  • Other differences and review


  • Identify.

Esto es un ordenador portátil.
– This is laptop.

  • To say the nationality or place of origin and the profession.

Mi novio es suizo y es médico.
– My boyfriend is swiss and is a doctor.

  • To talk about the essential characteristics of a thing, person or place.

Esta ciudad es muy grande, tiene una superficie de 1.500 km2.
– This city is very big, the surface is 1.500 Km2.

  • To say the time and a period of time.

Son las 4 de la mañana. ¡Déjame dormir!
– It’s 4 am. Let me sleep!

  • To talk about where a event takes place.

– La conferencia de antropología es en la Universidad de Durham.
– The anthropology lecture takes place is Durham University.


  • To locate things, places or people.

– La Torre Eiffel está en París.
– The Eiffel Tower is in Paris.

  • To talk about a physical state or a state of mind.

Mi jefe está muy gordo y su mujer está muy contenta.
– My boss is very fat and his wife is very happy.

  • Indicate the result of an action or process.

La comida que has preparado está muy sabrosa.
– The food you prepared is very tasty.

  • + gerondif: to express an action in course, developing.

Estoy estudiando español para mi examen.
– I’m studying Spanish for my exam.

  • Before “bien” and “mal”.

Estoy mal, me duele la cabeza. ¿Y tú cómo estás? Yo estoy bien.
– I feel bad, I have a headache. ¿And how are you? I am fine.

  • + de : to talk about a temporary job.

Estoy de cajera en un supermercado hasta que encuentre trabajo en un banco.
– I am working as a cashier in a supermarket until I find a job in a bank.

  • with 1st person of plural: situarnos en el tiempo to place us in the time

Estamos a lunes.
– It’s Monday.



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