Saturday, 4 May 2013

Tell Me, What Book Is That One?


Introduction
This post is about the practical use of relative pronouns in general and more specifically the relative pronoun “que”.





SCENARIO
Imagine you are with a relative, a friend or a colleague. Maybe you are sitting at at table/ desk studying Spanish together. There are several books on the table/ desk. The other person points at a book and says to you something like: "tell me, what book is that one?".

In Spanish, he/ she could choose to be less formal and say to you:
Dime, ¿qué libro es ese?

On the other hand, he/ she could choose to be more formal and say to you:
Dígame, ¿qué libro es ese?


OUR TIP
The question is an invitation for you to say something about the book in question. When you say something about an item such a book, unless your answer makes a reference to the person who asked the question, you should not need to consider different levels of formality for you reply. Your only concern should be about saying something relevant about the book in question.

Here are some examples of how you could reply:
  • Este libro es el que* tiene todos aquellos ejercicios de gramática (this book is the one which has all those grammar exercises);
  • Este es el libro que* tiene todos aquellos ejercicios de gramática (this is the book which has all those grammar exercises);
  • Este libro es el que* me compré ayer (this book is the one I bought yesterday);
  • Este es el libro que* me compré ayer (this is the book I bought yesterday);
  • Este libro es del que* te había hablado antes (this book is the one I had talked to you about before);
  • Este es el libro del que* te había hablado antes (this is the book I had talked to you about before);

Now you should practise replying to someone who says to you:
Dime, ¿qué libro es ese?

*Please see grammar topic below, relative pronouns and adjectives- Que


*Grammar-Relative Pronouns & Adjectives


Spanish relative pronouns roughly correspond to the English “who” or which”, whilst relative adjectives roughly correspond to the English “whose”. The Spanish relative pronouns and adjectives applicable to each combination of gender (masculine/ feminine/ neuter) and number (singular/ plural) are shown in the table below.


Pronouns
Adjectives
Masculine/ Singular
(el) que
(el) cual
quien
cuyo
Feminine/ Singular
(la) que
(la) cual
quien
cuya
Neuter
(lo) que
(lo) cual

Masculine/ Plural
(los) que
(los) cuales
quienes
cuyos
Feminine/ Plural
(las) que
(las) cuales
quienes
cuyas
Table 1 – Relative Pronouns and Adjectives


The following are some notes and examples of the use of relative pronouns and adjectives in Spanish.

    1. Que
The relative pronoun “que” is perhaps the most commonly used of them all. This relative pronoun never changes regardless of the gender (masculine/ feminine) or the number (singular/ plural) of the noun it replaces. This pronoun may be used to replace nouns referring to people or things.

The relative pronoun “que” may be used in a variety of situations. Considering the cases when the “que” is the subject, the direct object or neither subject nor direct object of a sentence may help better understand how this pronoun is used.
  • Some examples of the use of “que” as the subject of a sentence are:
  • Pedro fue el que te llamó, ¿verdad? (it was Pedro who called you, wasn't it?);
  • Maria fue la que te llamó, ¿verdad? (it was Maria who called you, wasn't it?);
  • ¿Conoces a la persona que te llamó? (do you know the person who called you?);
  • Esos perros son los que ladraban (those are the dogs which were barking);
  • Esas flores son las que crecen en el jardín (those are the flowers which grow in the garden);
  • ¿Conoces a las personas que te llamaron? (do you know the people who called you?);

  • Some examples of the use of “que” as the direct object of a sentence are:
    • A Pedro fue al que llamaste, ¿verdad? (it was Pedro* you called, wasn't it?);
    • A Maria fue a la que lamaste, ¿verdad? (it was Maria you called, wasn't it?);
    • Esos perros son los que vimos ayer (those are the dogs we saw* yesterday);
    • Esas flores son las que me regalaron (those are the flowers I was given* as a present);
    • ¿No viste a las personas que te llamamaron? (did you not see the people who called you?);

  • Other examples of the use of “que” are:
    • El libro del que me hablas es este ¿verdad? (the book you are talking to me about is this one, isn't it?);
    • La casa en la que vives es muy grande, ¿verdad? (the house you live in is very large, isn't it?);
    • Los libros de los que me hablas son estos, ¿verdad? (the books you are talking to me about are these ones, aren't they?);
    • Las flores para las que es el jarrón son estas (the flowers the vase is for are these ones);

*NB The relative pronoun (who, which, etc.) is often omitted in English. That is the case for example in “it was Pedro you called, wasn't it?”. There are several other examples above. However, the relative pronoun “que” should never be omitted in Spanish.


    2. Quien
The relative pronoun “quien” is used in a very similar way to “que”. The main differences between these two pronouns are:
  • The relative pronoun “quien” may be used to replace nouns referring to people only (not things);
  • The relative pronoun “quien” has a plural form, “quienes”, which is used when replacing plural nouns.

Bearing in mind the above differences, the relative pronoun “quien” may also be used in a variety of situations.

Considering the cases when the “quien” is the subject, the direct object or neither subject nor direct object of a sentence may help better understand how this pronoun is used.
  • Some examples of the use of “quien” as the subject of a sentence are:
  • Pedro fue quién te llamó, ¿verdad? (it was Pedro who called you, wasn't it?);
  • Maria fue quién te llamó, ¿verdad? (it was Maria who called you, wasn't it?);
  • Pedro y Antonio fueron quiénes os llamaron, ¿verdad? (it was Pedro and Antonio who called you, wasn't it?);
  • Pedro y María fueron quiénes os llamaron, ¿verdad? (it was Pedro and Maria who called you, wasn't it?);
  • Lucía y Ana fueron quiénes os llamaron, ¿verdad? (it was Lucia and Ana who called you, wasn't it?);

  • Some examples of the use of “quien” as the direct object of a sentence are:
    • Pedro, a quién llamaste, no te contestó ¿verdad? (Pedro, whom you called, didn't reply, did he?);
    • María, a quién llamaste, no te contestó ¿verdad? (María, whom you called, didn't reply, did she?);
    • Pedro y Antonio, a quiénes llamaste, no te contestaron ¿verdad? (Pedro and Antonio, whom you called, did not reply, did they?);
    • Pedro y María, a quiénes llamaste, no te contestaron ¿verdad? (Pedro and Maria, whom you called, did not reply, did they?);
    • Lucía y Ana, a quiénes llamaste, no te contestaron ¿verdad? (Lucia and Ana, whom you called, did not reply, did they?);

  • Other examples of the use of “quien” are:
    • El hombre de quien me hablas es Pedro ¿verdad? (the man you are talking to me about is Pedro, isn't it?);
    • La mujer de quien me hablas es María, ¿verdad? (the woman you are talking to me about is María, isn't it?);
    • Los amigos con quienes viajaste son Pedro y Antonio, ¿verdad? (the friends you travelled with are Pedro and Antonio, aren't they?);
    • Los amigos para quienes compraste el regalo son Pedro y María, ¿verdad? (the friends you bought the present for are Pedro and Maria, aren't they?);
    • Las amigas para quienes compraste el regalo son Ana y Lucia, ¿verdad? (the friends you bought the present for are Ana and Lucia, aren't they?);

*NB Again, the relative pronoun (who, which, etc.) is often omitted in English. That is the case for example in “it was Pedro you called, wasn't it?”. There are several other examples above. However, the relative pronoun “quien” should never be omitted in Spanish.


    3. Cual
The relative pronoun “cual” is used in a very similar to “que”. The main difference between these two pronouns is:
  • The relative pronoun “cual” has a plural form, “cuales”, which is used when replacing plural nouns.

Bearing in mind the above differences, the relative pronoun “cual” may also be used in a variety of situations.

Considering the cases when the “cual” is the subject, the direct object or neither subject nor direct object of a sentence may help better understand how this pronoun is used.
  • Some examples of the use of “cual” as the subject of a sentence are:
  • Este es Pedro el cual os llamó ayer (this is Pedro who called you yesterday);
  • Esta es María la cual os llamó ayer (this is Maria who called you yesterday);
  • Esos perros, los cuales ladraban ayer, hoy no lo hacen (those dogs which were barking yesterday, are not doing it today);
  • Esas flores, las cuales ayer crecían en el jardín, hoy están ya mustias (those flowers which yesterday were growing in the garden, are now withered);

  • Some examples of the use of “cual” as the direct object of a sentence are:
    • Pedro, al cual llamaste, no te contestó ¿verdad? (Pedro, whom you called, didn't reply, did he?);
    • María, a la cual llamaste, no te contestó ¿verdad? (María, whom you called, didn't reply, did she?);
    • Pedro y Antonio, a los cuales llamaste, no te contestaron ¿verdad? (Pedro and Antonio, whom you called, did not reply, did they?);
    • Pedro y María, a los cuales llamaste, no te contestaron ¿verdad? (Pedro and Maria, whom you called, did not reply, did they?);
    • Lucía y Ana, a las cuales llamaste, no te contestaron ¿verdad? (Lucia and Ana, whom you called, did not reply, did they?);

  • Other examples of the use of “cual” are:
    • El libro del cual me hablas es este ¿verdad? (the book you are talking to me about is this one, isn't it?);
    • La casa en la cual vives es muy grande, ¿verdad? (the house you live in is very large, isn't it?);
    • Los libros de los cuales me hablas son estos, ¿verdad? (the books you are talking to me about are these ones, aren't they?);
    • Las flores para las cuales es el jarrón son estas (the flowers the vase is for are these ones);

*NB Again, the relative pronoun (who, which, etc.) is often omitted in English. That is the case for example in “it was Pedro you called, wasn't it?”. There are several other examples above. However, the relative pronoun “cual” should never be omitted in Spanish.


    4. Neuter Relative Pronouns
The relative pronouns “que” and “cual” may be used to replace a concept or an action instead of a noun. When used in this way, these pronouns are always preceded by the neuter definite article “lo”. Examples of the use of these relative pronouns are:
  • Descansar es lo que me gusta hacer los domingos (resting is what I like to do on Sundays);
  • Lo que quiero es que descanses (what I want is that you rest);
  • Para lo que gano casi no vale la pena trabajar (for what I earn it is hardly worthwhile working);
  • No nos llamó Pedro lo cual me ha extrañado (Pedro didn't call us which has surprised me);
  • Nos ha ayudado Pedro por lo cual le estamos agradecidos (Pedro helped us, for which we are thankful);


    5. Cuyo
Cuyo” is a relative adjective. As is the case with other adjectives, the relative adjective“cuyo” is is used to describe nouns*. Typical uses of “cuyo” are as per the following examples:
  • Este es mi amigo Pedro cuyo hermano vive en Madrid (this is my friend Pedro whose brother lives in Madrid);
  • Este es mi amigo Pedro cuya familia vive en Madrid (this is my friend Pedro whose family lives in Madrid);
  • Este es mi amigo Pedro cuyos hermanos viven en Madrid (this is my friend Pedro whose brothers live in Madrid);
  • Este es mi amigo Pedro cuyas hermanas viven en Madrid (this is my friend Pedro whose sisters live in Madrid);
  • Este es mi amigo Pedro cuyos padres viven en Madrid (this is my friend Pedro whose parents live in Madrid);

*NB As shown in the examples above, “cuyo” is typically placed between two nouns, agreeing always with the one which follows it.

Now you should practise the use of the relative pronouns and adjectives with some examples of your own.

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