Using el que, la que, los que, las que = the one/ones who/that (relative pronouns)

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. 

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. In these cases it is "understood" who or what the antecedent is. 

With No antecedent

In these cases it is "understood" who or what the antecedent is.

El que tiene ojos verdes es el novio de Sara.
The one who has green eyes is Sara's boyfriend.

El que tiene la primera página rota, es mío.
The one that has the first page torn is mine.

In both sentences above, although there is no antecedent, it is understood that:

  • in the first sentence "el que" refers to un hombrea 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 it is referring to.

Now, have a look at some examples that refer to a feminine noun:

La que está sentada en la mesa de la esquina se llama Verónica.
The one who is sitting at the corner table is called Verónica.

Las que tienen forma redonda me gustan más.
The ones that have a round shape are more appealing to me.

In the first example, despite not having any antecedent, it is understood by the context that it refers to a woman.

In the second example, despite not having any antecedent, 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 give us more clues. 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 which is singular. There is and also agreement in number and gender with una chica morena.

More examples:

La que enseñaba francés, se jubiló el año pasado.
The one who used to teach French, retired last year. [one = feminine]

Las que comimos en ese restaurante, estaban deliciosas.
The ones that we ate in that restaurant, were delicious. [ones = feminine plural]

Las que me atraen más son rubias y altas.
The ones that I am attracted to the most are blond and tall. [ones = feminine plural]

Los que se fabrican en Rusia, son de buena calidad.
The ones that are made in Russia, are of good quality.

Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla.
The ones who booked in advance can go to that desk.

Las que conocimos en Cuba, vivían en Estados Unidos.
The ones that we met in Cuba, lived in the USA. [ones = feminine plural]

Los que han suspendido todas las asignaturas, tendrán que repetir curso.
The ones who have failed to pass all subjects, will have to repeat the year.

With antecedent

In these cases we generally find it preceded by verb ser. 

El profesor de historia es el que me castigó.
The history teacher is the one who gave me detention.

Esas casas de allí son las que José quería comprar.
Those houses over there are the ones José wanted to buy.

Ellos han sido los que me han insultado.
They were the the ones who insulted me.

Mis amigas fueron las que me animaron a ir al viaje.
My (female) friends were (the ones) who encouraged me to go on the trip.

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:

For example:

Aquella mujer, la que tiene el pelo negro, es la madre de Antonio.
That lady, the one who has back hair, is Antonio's mum.

We are here being very specific about who we are talking about, clarifiying which lady we are referring to. 

Coge un par de plátanos, los que estén más maduros. 
Grab a couple of bananas, the ones that are more ripe.

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 of them 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.

Quien dirija ese departamento debe ser muy listo.
The one who/Whoever leads that department must be very smart.

El que dirija ese departamento debe ser muy listo.
The one who/Whoever leads that department must be very smart.

Quienes lleguen a la cima recibirán un trofeo.
The ones who/Those who reach the top will receive a trophy.

Los que lleguen a la cima recibirán un trofeo.
The ones who/Those who reach the top will receive a trophy.

See also Pronombre relativo

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

La que me insultó era una chica morena.
The one who insulted me was a dark haired girl.


Las que tienen forma redonda me gustan más.
The ones that have a round shape are more appealing to me.


El que dirija ese departamento debe ser muy listo.
The one who/Whoever leads that department must be very smart.


Las que comimos en ese restaurante, estaban deliciosas.
The ones that we ate in that restaurant, were delicious. [ones = feminine plural]


Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla.
The ones who booked in advance can go to that desk.


Los que han suspendido todas las asignaturas, tendrán que repetir curso.
The ones who have failed to pass all subjects, will have to repeat the year.


La que está sentada en la mesa de la esquina se llama Verónica.
The one who is sitting at the corner table is called Verónica.


Quienes lleguen a la cima recibirán un trofeo.
The ones who/Those who reach the top will receive a trophy.


Los que se fabrican en Rusia, son de buena calidad.
The ones that are made in Russia, are of good quality.


Mis amigas fueron las que me animaron a ir al viaje.
My (female) friends were (the ones) who encouraged me to go on the trip.


El profesor de historia es el que me castigó.
The history teacher is the one who gave me detention.


Quien dirija ese departamento debe ser muy listo.
The one who/Whoever leads that department must be very smart.


Las que me atraen más son rubias y altas.
The ones that I am attracted to the most are blond and tall. [ones = feminine plural]


El que tiene la primera página rota, es mío.
The one that has the first page torn is mine.


Coge un par de plátanos, los que estén más maduros. 
Grab a couple of bananas, the ones that are more ripe.


Quienes tenían mucha experiencia, impresionaron a los alumnos.
The ones who had a lot of experience, impressed the students.


Esas casas de allí son las que José quería comprar.
Those houses over there are the ones José wanted to buy.


La que aparece en la película de Indiana Jones, está en Egipto.
The one that appears in the Indiana Jones film, is in Egypt. [one = feminine]


Las que conocimos en Cuba, vivían en Estados Unidos.
The ones that we met in Cuba, lived in the USA. [ones = feminine plural]


El que tiene ojos verdes es el novio de Sara.
The one who has green eyes is Sara's boyfriend.


Aquella mujer, la que tiene el pelo negro, es la madre de Antonio.
That lady, the one who has back hair, is Antonio's mum.


Los que lleguen a la cima recibirán un trofeo.
The ones who/Those who reach the top will receive a trophy.


La que enseñaba francés, se jubiló el año pasado.
The one who used to teach French, retired last year. [one = feminine]


El que llegue antes debe comprar las entradas para todos.
The one who/Whoever arrives first must buy the tickets for everyone.


Ellos han sido los que me han insultado.
They were the the ones who insulted me.


Q&A Forum 4 questions, 7 answers

Question

With

Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla.
The ones who booked in advance can go to that desk.

should the translations be can go to that window?

Asked 2 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Ralph

Depending on the context and where you are, the Spanish word "ventanilla" can be translated in different ways, for example: the ticket office, the desk, the window, the cashier...

We chose desk as there isn't much context so we thought it could be a general one.

Saludos,

Inma

Question

With

Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla.
The ones who booked in advance can go to that desk.

should the translations be can go to that window?

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What’s the rule about estar and ser on the se fence “Las que comimos . . . estaban deliciosas?

Asked 4 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Julia

In this sentence:

"Las que comimos en ese restaurante, estaban deliciosas"

we are using estar because when we talk about "taste" in food (or drink) we use "estar". When you are in a restaurant and you want to tell the chef the food is delicious you can say "Está delicioso" or anything related to the taste of the food, also negative: "está salado" (it is salty), "¡está asqueroso!" (it tastes horrible!)

If you used ser, instead of estar to talk about food, you will be referring to a permanent quality of that food, for example: "Las naranjas de Sevilla para la mermelada son muy amargas" (Oranges from Seville [used] for marmalade are very bitter) or "Los plátanos son dulces" (Bananas are sweet)

In the first examples with estar, you are saying what taste the food has at the moment of tasting it, not as a permanent quality.

Hope this helps,

Saludos

Inma

Thanks so much for the explanation. 

What’s the rule about estar and ser on the se fence “Las que comimos . . . estaban deliciosas?

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Why subjunctive!?

In the example:

"Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla"

why is it 'hayan' and not 'han'?

Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Alan

You can use both, subjunctive and indicative.

With subjunctive, "Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla", the speaker doesn't know who the people who booked in advance are, therefore the subjunctive is used. However, with indicative, "Los que han reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla", it is as if the speaker has seen a list of those people so he knows who they are. 

A "flexible" translation of the first one would probably be "If you've booked in advance please go to that desk".

Saludos

Thanks, that's clearer.

Why subjunctive!?

In the example:

"Los que hayan reservado con antelación pueden ir a esa ventanilla"

why is it 'hayan' and not 'han'?

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Esquina v Rincón

From your example, Spaniards translate "corner table" as "mesa de la esquina". Would it be more accurate to say "mesa del rincón" since it is bound to be an inside corner?

Yes, I know I'm a pedant!!

Asked 1 year ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hi Alan

"La que está sentada en la mesa de la esquina se llama Verónica".

Generally, the word "esquina" is used for the outside corner of an object, e.g la esquina de la mesa, or you could also say "Mi casa está en la esquina" (My house is on the corner [of the street]), while rincón does't refer to the "shape" of a corner. Rincón is more like a small area inside a room or a bar for example. 

In the example you are referring to, "La que está sentada en la mesa de la esquina se llama Verónica", you need to imagine that you are looking at a few tables, say, outside a bar, and the tables are arranged in a square shape. You are pointing at one of the tables that is placed in one of the corners.

Does it make sense?

Yes it does thanks. Alan.

Esquina v Rincón

From your example, Spaniards translate "corner table" as "mesa de la esquina". Would it be more accurate to say "mesa del rincón" since it is bound to be an inside corner?

Yes, I know I'm a pedant!!

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