10.4 Forms of el que

The definite articles combine with que to give the meaning “he who,” “she who,” “the one(s) who/that,” and “those who/ that”:

El que trabaja más, no siempre gana más. He who (The one who) works more (the most) doesn’t always earn more (the
La que ganó es mi amiga Belisa. She who (The one who) won is my friend Belisa.
Los que no pueden ayudarse a sí mismos, no pueden ayudar a otros. Those who can’t help themselves can’t help others.
Las que ocurrieron en agosto fueron las peores tempestades. Those that occurred in August were the worst storms.

Less commonly, the singular forms may be replaced by quien and the plural, by quienes without changing the meaning:

Quien no coopera, no va a tener éxito. He who doesn’t cooperate isn’t going to be successful.
Quienes tienen la culpa deben confesársela. Those who are at blame should confess it.

El que and its forms may refer to people or to objects, whereas quien and quienes only refer to people.

El que also has a neuter form, lo que, which in addition to meaning “what” (as in “that which”), means “which” when preceded by a comma. In this case it has no specific one-word antecedent, but rather refers to the entire preceding clause:

Estela llegó tarde a la cena, lo que les desagradó a sus padres. Estela arrived late to dinner, which displeased her parents.

The neuterlo cual is equally common in this meaning:

Perdieron bastante dinero en la Bolsa, lo cual les enfadó. They lost a fair amount of money in the stock market, which angered them.

Remember that lo que also means “what.” In this case it is not preceded by a comma and joins two clauses:

No ganó lo que quería. He didn’t earn (win) what he wanted (to).

Of the two, only lo que can begin a sentence:

Lo que necesito es ganar más dinero. What I need is to earn more money.

Vocabulario básico


agradecer- to thank, to be grateful for
apoyar- to support (politically, emotionally), to lean (physically)
comportarse (bien/mal)- to behave (well/badly)
deprimir- to depress*
juzgar- to judge
meter(se)- to put (to meddle)
molestar- to bother (false friend)


el gusto- (sense of) taste, pleasure
el premio- prize
la revista- magazine
la voluntad- (free) will, disposition (cognate: volition)


agotado- exhausted; sold out
tinto- red (wine), dyed, tinted


acá- here (used for motion toward the speaker)
ahí- there (nearby)
allá- there (far away)


con (mucho) gusto- with (much) pleasure, gladly
estar de buen (mal) humor- to be in a good (bad) mood
tener voluntad- to be willing, to feel like

*Almost all verbs ending in -primir correspond to those in English ending in “-press”: The meanings of reprimir, oprimir, suprimir, etc. should now be readily deducible. One exception is imprimir, which means “to print” (or “to imprint”) not to “impress,” which is rendered by impresionar.

Last revised on June 18, 2021.