cuyo


Relative clauses in Spanish 7

Introduction

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.

  • QUIEN

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.

  •  EL QUE / LA QUE / LOS QUE / LAS QUE

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.

  • CUYO / CUYA / CUYOS / CUYAS

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.

TYPES OF RELATIVE CLAUSES

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)

INDICATIVE OR SUBJUNCTIVE?

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.