In Spanish lo que is used to express what, which, that which, or the thing that, in reference to some idea expressed in the same sentence.
See and hear how it is used in these examples. The idea lo que refers to is underlined:
Lo que quiero decir es que no me das miedo.What I mean is that you don't frighten me.
Le apasionan los documentales históricos, lo que me parece aburridísimo.She loves history documentaries, which I find very boring.
Lo que admiro de ellos es su tenacidad.What I admire about them is their tenacity.
Han recaudado mucho dinero, lo que me pone muy contenta.They have collected a lot of money, which makes me very happy.
Sometimes, lo que forms part of the expression of the idea:
A él le gusta lo que ella odia.He likes what she hates.
Puedes hacer lo que quieras, no me importa.You can do what you want, I don’t care. [you = tú]
No me digas lo que tengo que decidir.Don't tell me what I have to decide.
Ustedes no saben lo que vi el otro día.You don't know what I saw the other day.
¿Qué es lo que quieres?What is it that you want? [you = tú]
Lo que versus La cosa que
- In sentences that start with lo que we can usually (not always) use the expression la cosa que as well.
- When lo que is in the middle of the sentence, this normally isn't possible.
This works very similarly to its English equivalent. Here, La cosa que could
replace lo que
Lo que admiro de ellos es su tenacidad.
What I admire about them is their tenacity.
The thing that I admire about them is their tenacity.
Here, La cosa que can't replace lo que:
Han recaudado mucho dinero, lo que me pone muy contenta.
They have collected a lot of money, which makes me very happy.
They have collected a lot of money, the thing that makes me very happy.
Lo que versus que
Whilst they are similar, don't confuse que and lo que. In this example, lo que refers to the whole sentence/idea that the school is closed:
El colegio está cerrado, lo que quiere decir que están de vacaciones.The school is closed, which means they are on holidays.
Whereas in this example with que, it refers to the noun, the school.
El colegio, que está cerrado, abrirá la semana que viene.The school, which is closed, will open next week.
Note on "all that.../everything that..."
When we want to say all/everything that... we say: todo lo que
Be careful not to say "todo que..."
Todo lo que quiero es que aceptes tomar un café conmigo.All (that) I want is for you to agree to have a coffee with me.
Todo lo que se dijo en la reunión era confidencial.Everything that was said in the meeting was confidential.
See Que/ el cual/ la cual/ los cuales/ quien/ quienes = who, that, which (relative pronouns) to learn more.
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