Relative Pronouns: que


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The next few lessons will cover a subject called “relative pronouns.” Remember, 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.

One way to view relative pronouns is to recognize that they combine two sentences that share a common noun. In the following example, the common noun is “milk” or “leche.”

¿Dónde está la leche?
Where is the milk?

Compraste leche.
You bought milk.

¿Dónde está la leche que compraste?
Where is the milk that you bought?

Another way to view relative pronouns is to recognize that they are used to introduce a clause that modifies a noun. In the following example, the clause “I finished last night” modifies the noun “book.”

Terminé el libro anoche.
I finished the book last night.

El libro es muy extenso.
The book is very long.

El libro que terminé anoche es muy extenso.
The book that I finished last night is very long.

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” is the Spanish equivalent of the English words: who, whom, which, and that.

El hombre que es pobre … (person, subject)
The man who is poor …

Los libros que son extensos … (thing, subject)
The books which are long …

La señorita que conocí … (person, object)
The young lady whom I met …

La carta que leíste … (thing, object)
The letter that you read …

The relative pronoun is often omitted in English, but it is never omitted in Spanish.

La casa que compramos es nueva.
The house (that) we bought is new.

El programa que miraba era cómico.
The show (that) I was watching was comical.