The Spanish relative pronouns el que, la que, los que and las que are used to refer to both people and things. They can be translated as the one/ones that/who in English.
Learn how to use Spanish relative pronouns el que, la que, los que, las que
These relative pronouns can be placed either at the beginning of a sentence with no antecedent or in the middle of a sentence with an antecedent.
With no antecedent
In these cases it is "understood" who or what the antecedent is.
In both sentences above, although there is no antecedent, it is understood that:
- in the first sentence "el que" refers to un hombre, a man.
- in the second sentence "el que" refers to un libro, a book.
These must have been mentioned previously in the conversation so that the other person knows what they are referring to.
Now, have a look at some examples that refer to a feminine noun:
In the first example, it is understood by the context that it refers to a woman.
In the second example, we know by the context that it refers to some objects. These would have been mentioned in the conversation previously.
Apart from the articles el/la/los/las which give us a clue as to the gender and number, there are other elements in the sentence that help. These other elements agree in gender and number with the relative pronoun.
For example, on this example:
La que me insultó era una chica morena.
The one who insulted me was a dark-haired girl.
The verbs insultó and era are singular, in agreement with la. There is also agreement in number and gender with una chica morena.
In these cases we generally find it preceded by the verb ser.
With antecedent (between commas)
When we have an antecedent followed by a relative (el que, la que, los que, las que) but we are adding information to clarify which specific group within that subject we are referring to, we add commas and the meaning of the sentence changes:
Here we are being very specific about who we are talking about, clarifiying which lady we are referring to.
The speaker is being specific here about which bananas his friend should take. You can imagine a bowl full of bananas, some of them ripe and some not ripe.
Quien / quienes
Bear in mind that el que, la que, los que, las que can be replaced by quien/quienes without changing the meaning, only in the cases where they refer to people, not things.
See also Pronombre relativo
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