Hi, there! What are you up to? Today we talk about two pronouns: quién and quien. Do you know the differences? Let’s go!

  • WHO

WHO is a pronoun that we use to substitute people, BUT it is important to remember that you had to mention before this people. In other words, when you are talking about people and you don’t want to refer to them again in the same sentence, you use the relative pronoun WHO. In that way, you make relative clauses and they are called in Spanish: ORACIONES DE RELATIVO. For example,

Who refers to people.

  • (2) Ellos son las personas que quieren comprar nuestra casa.

Que refers to las personas.

As you can see, we traslate WHO in that case as QUE and we call this QUE: pronombre relativo. Wait! We’ve got a problem when the sentence starts with WHO, I mean: 

  • (3) Who is calling?

Who replaces a person. The person who is calling.

  • (4) ¿Quién está llamando?

Quién replaces a person. The person who is calling.

Have you understood the difference? Both are pronouns, it’s true, however, WHO in (1) is a RELATIVE PRONOUN and WHO in (3) is an INTERROGATIVE PRONOUN. Also, we know the people who replace WHO in (1), but we don’t know this piece of information in (3). Then, if you understand clearly this, move on into Spanish! If you need a RELATIVE PRONOUN, you have to use QUE, otherwise if you need an INTERROGATIVE PRONOUN, then you have to use QUIÉN. Remember the accent here: QUIÉN!

Do you want to see more examples?

  • (5) The girl who I saw yesterday was Laia. 

Who replaces the girl.

  • (6) La chica que vi ayer era Laia.

Que replaces la chica.

We use “relative pronouncs” in both cases (5, 6). The same happens in 7, 8, 9 and 10.

  • (7) The Pope, who is the leader of the Catholic Church, said that…
  • (8) El Papa, que es el liìder de la Iglesia catoìlica, dijo que…
  • (9) Seismologists are people who study earthquakes. 
  • (10) Los sismólogos son personas que estudian los terremotos. 
  • (11) Who study earthquakes?

Who replaces a piece of information which we don’t know yet. Who is an interrogative pronoun here.

  • (12) ¿Quién estudia los terremotos? (if you use third person singular, the verb is conjugated in third person singular: estudia)
  • (13) ¿Quiénes estudian los terremotos? (If you use third person plural, the verb is conjugated in third person plural: estudian).

Quién and quiénes work in 12 and 13 in the same way as who in 11.

Finally, you know that you can replace in English who with that if the relative sentence isn’t between commas. Why? Because commas indicate that this relative sentence is non-defining clause (oración de relativo explicativa); however, if the sentence hasn’t got commas, it’s defining sentence (oración de relativo explicativa). Nonetheless, you have no problem at all with this in Spanish, because the only thing that commas change is the information (necessary information if it’s without commas or no essential information-or extra information-if it’s with them), but we use the same relative pronoun QUE in defining and no defining clauses. 

Next post, this information is going to be written in Spanish. If you are interested in, you should read it! See you tomorrow! Take care! 

If you want to contact with me, you can write an email to: belenriescospain@gmail.com . Also, you can share this post if you want and you can like it. More people can discover this blog thanks to you! I really appreciate your support! Thank you so much!

Letras en español – Belén Riesco©


Cambridge Dictionary (online): relative clauses: defining and non-defining. From: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/relative-clauses-defining-and-non-defining

Cambridge Dictionary (online). From:  https://dictionary.cambridge.org

CGP (2015): Spelling, punctuation & gramar for GCSE (grade 9-1). Newcastle: CGP Books.

Real Academia Española de la Lengua (online). From: https://dle.rae.es/

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