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Relative clauses in Spanish grammar

introduction

A Relative clause is a subordinate clause which is introduced with a relative pronoun or adverb and contains additional information about a noun in the sentence. In Spanish we use certain relative clauses with commas, others without commas.

With our grammar explanation you will learn in no time how to form relative clauses in Spanish. In the exercises you can then test and deepen your knowledge.

example

Use of Spanish relative clauses

Usually the relative clauses come right after the noun / pronoun they are referring to - this can be at the end of the main clause or in the middle of the sentence.

Subject:
Antonio, que lleva gafas, está en mi clase.Antonio, who wears glasses, is in my class.

Antonio lleva gafas. - ¿Quien“Antonio wears glasses. - who?

Ownership:
Laura, cuya sonrisa es magnífica, baila muy bien.Laura, whose smile is beautiful, is very good at dancing.

La sonrisa de Laura it magnífica. - ¿La sonrisa de quién?Laura's smile is beautiful. - Whose smile?

with preposition:
Estos son los amigos con los que paso el tiempo.These are the friends I spend my time with.

Yo paso el tiempo con mis amigos. – ¿Con quién?I spend time with my friends. - With whom?

Object:
Lucas, a quien conozco desde hace tiempo, es muy divertido.Lucas, whom I've known for a long time, is very funny.

Conozco a Lucas desde hace tiempo. - ¿A quién?I've known Lucas for a long time. - Whom?

Types of relative clauses

There are two types of relative clauses:

  • Limiting relative clauses (oraciones de relativo especificativas) are necessary to identify what is described in more detail. These relative clauses are in Spanish Not separated by commas.
    Example:
    El chico que lleva gafas es Antonio. The boy who wears glasses is Antonio.
  • Explanatory relative clauses (oraciones de relativo explicativas) only provide additional information that is not necessary to identify what is described in more detail. These relative clauses are separated by commas.
    Example:
    Lucas, a quien conozco desde hace tiempo, es muy divertido.Lucas, whom I've known for a long time, is very funny.

Formation of relative clauses in Spanish

We form relative clauses with relative pronouns or relative adverbs.

Relative pronouns and adverbs.

The relative pronoun or adverb takes the place of the noun / pronoun to which it refers in the relative clause. The following table contains the Spanish relative pronouns and the relative adverb donde.

Example:
Antonio, que lleva gafas ... Antonio, who wears glasses ...
Antonio, a quien las gafas le sientan muy bien, ... Antonio, who looks good on glasses, ...
Antonio, cuyas gafas son nuevas ... Antonio, whose glasses are new ...
Las gafas con las que Antonio nos sorprendió… The glasses with which Antonio surprised us.
La tienda donde / en la que Antonio compró sus gafas ... The shop where Antonio bought his glasses ...
Se gastó cuanto tenía. He spent everything he had.

que

Most of the time we just use the relative pronoun in Spanish que. It can stand for things and people.

Example:
Antonio, que lleva gafas, está en mi clase.Antonio, who wears glasses, is in my class.
Las gafas que lleva Antonio son nuevas, the glasses Antonio wears are new.

To make it clear what the relative pronoun que we can put an article in front of it.

Example:
La hermana de Lucas, el que es muy divertido, tiene dos años. Lucas's sister, who is very funny, is two years old.
La hermana de Lucas, la que es muy divertida, tiene dos años, Lucas's sister, who is very funny, is two years old.

If the relative clause is introduced with a preposition, it must precede que there is also an article.

Example:
Estos son los amigos con los que paso mi tiempo: These are the friends I spend my time with.

quien, el cual

The relative pronouns quien, el / la cual, los / las cuales can instead of que if it is an unnecessary relative clause. We tend to use these relative pronouns in formal language.

Example:
Antonio, quien / el cual lleva gafas, está en mi clase.Antonio, who wears glasses, is in my class.

info

In necessary relative clauses we can que not through quien /… cual replace.

Example:
Las gafas que lleva Antonio son nuevas, the glasses Antonio wears are new.
(Not:)

cuyo / a / os / as

While in German it depends on the owner (male, female) whether we his / her use depends on the shape of cuyo in Spanish after possession.

Example:
Antonio, cuyasgafas son nuevas, es miope.Antonio, whose glasses are new, is nearsighted.

Cuyo / a / os / assounds very formal, so we use the form in Spanish mainly in the written language. In the oral one tries to avoid a relative clause in this case. In Spain one often hears relative clauses here quebut they are wrong.

Example:
Antonio, que susgafas son nuevas, es miope.Antonio, who has new glasses, is nearsighted.

This relative clause is grammatically incorrect!

lo que, lo cual

The relative pronouns lo que, lo cual we use when the pronouns refer to a whole sub-clause. In German we mostly use the relative pronoun here What.

Example:
Hace mucho que no veo a mis amigos, lo que / cual me entristece mucho. I haven't seen my friends in a long time, which makes me very sad.

cuanto

The Spanish relative pronoun cuanto is very formal. We also translate this relative pronoun into German all (s) ... what / they.

Example:
A mis amigos les cuento cuanto sé.I tell my friends everything I know.
Laura es la chica más hermosa de cuantas conozco.Laura is the prettiest girl of all I know.

donde

The relative adverb donde is immutable and is used for a place.

Example:
Esa es la tienda donde Antonio compró sus gafas, the shop where Antonio bought his glasses.

Donde is interchangeable with en el / la / los / las que.

Example:
Esa es la tienda en la que Antonio compró sus gafas, the shop where Antonio bought his glasses.

Subjunctive in the Spanish relative clause

Sometimes we have to use the relative clause Subjunctive use. This is the case when the relative clause ...

  • after a negative
    Example:
    No hay ninguna amiga que me comprenda como Laura. There is no friend who understands me like Laura.
  • expresses a wish, permission, prohibition or subjective evaluation
    Example:
    Yo querría una bicicleta que me permitiese ir a visitarla.I want a bike that would allow me to visit them.