Get it Straight: What Does ‘Que’ Mean in Spanish?
What does que mean in Spanish?
The word appears everywhere. It’s common in Spanish vocabulary—it’s actually the second most used word in the Spanish language!
But just what does que mean in Spanish? Is it a pronoun or a conjunction? When should you say it? How do you use it correctly?
The direct translation for the word que is “what.” However, it has other definitions that aren’t necessarily equivalent translations.
This blog post will come in handy so you can know when and how to use it. Are you ready to step up your Spanish game? Let’s dive deep to answer the question: “What does que mean in Spanish!”
What Does ‘Que’ Mean in Spanish?
Before I start explaining and giving examples, ask yourself this question. What does que mean in Spanish? Do you have an exact answer?
In Spanish grammar, the word que is a relative pronoun. Relative pronouns are used as an introduction to a clause that provides information about a noun.
For example, in the phrase la mujer que corre (“the woman who runs”), the relative pronoun is que (who) and the clause que corre provides more information about the noun mujer.
The word que is also a conjunction, as it serves to connect phrases and clauses.
For example, in the sentence No sabía que tuvieras hermanos (“I didn’t know that you had brothers”); the conjunction is que (that).
Both relative pronouns and conjunctions serve similar purposes.
When it comes to knowing when to use que, consider the following:
- Does it have an accent mark?
- Does it have question marks?
- Is it followed by an adjective?
- Does it have a verb before it?
All of these questions provide context into the meaning of a sentence with que.
Qué Versus Que
Whenever you’re asked what does ‘que’ mean in Spanish, remember that there are two different forms of the word, one with an accent and one without. Punctuation signs like question marks also play a big part in the meaning.
When the word qué (with an accent) is accompanied by a question mark, you can use it in different forms. In a question, qué with the accent mark usually means “what,” but it can also mean “which.” For example:
¿Qué lugar es más bonito, el restaurante o el cine?
Which place is nicer, the restaurant or the movies?
¿Qué es un carro?
What is a car?
¿Qué hace un carro?
What does a car do?
Qué with an accent mark and without a question mark means “how” or “what.” This applies to impersonal expressions, and the word qué is usually followed by a description. The English translation is defined by the sentence and which adjective it has. For example:
What a mess!
¡Qué horrible situación!
What a horrible situation!
How to Use ‘Que’
If you take the accent mark from que, it means “that,” “which,” “who,” “whom,” or “whose” in English. So, how do you identify which one is correct?
Different scenarios exist for identifying the proper translation and use. I’ve put together a list of 10 ways to to use que to help you understand what que means in Spanish.
1. Pronoun and Relative Clause
You’re probably already familiar with this one. When you use que to define a subject or object, it translates to the words “which,” “that,” or “who.” It applies to describing someone or something. It helps clarify who or what you’re talking about.
El hombre que amo eres tú.
The man who I love is you.
El libro que más me gusta es Harry Potter.
The book which I like the most is Harry Potter.
Conozco a la persona que trabaja ahí.
I know the person that works there.
¿Qué pasó con el chico que llegó tarde ayer?
What happened to the guy that was late yesterday?
Podrías pasarme el lapicero que funciona por favor.
Could you please pass me the pen that works.
This one is simple. If you’re comparing two or more items, the word ‘que’ translates to “than” or “to.”
Yo tengo más perros que tú.
I have more dogs than you.
Ella es más alta que él.
She’s taller than him.
Prefiero la playa que las montañas.
I prefer the beach to mountains.
You can use the word que to give an order or command. In this scenario the word que can translate to “let” and uses the subjunctive form of a verb within a command.
Que empiece el juego.
Let the game begin.
Por favor siéntate. Ya te dije, que te sientes por favor!
Please sit down. I told you, sit down please!
4. With a Subjunctive Phrase
When you use que with a subjunctive phrase, it translates in English to the word “may.” Not in the form of question but as a more formal affirmation, wish, or desire.
Que Dios te bendiga.
May God bless you.
Que te vaya bien.
May things go well for you.
Que te mejores pronto.
May you get well soon.
5. Express Desire
If you have a desire for someone or something else, use the word que with a subjunctive phrase. In this case, it translates to “that” in English.
Quiero que tú me cocines un pastel.
I want you to bake a cake for me.
Yo sugiero que lleves tu propio carro.
I suggest that you bring your own car.
6. Express Need
When you wish to express a need or requirement, the word que translates to “has/have to.”
Mi primo tiene que venir a traer a su hijo.
My cousin has to come pick up his son.
Tus hermanos tienen que ir a la casa.
Your brothers have to go to the house.
7. Express Possibility
When you want to express a situation that could happen or you believe is likely to occur, the word ‘que’ translates to ‘it might be that’ or it ‘may be that’ followed by a subjunctive phrase. For example:
Él no ha llegado porque puede que siga en su casa.
He’s not here because it might be that he’s still at his house.
Trae un suéter porque puede ser que haya lluvia.
Bring a sweater because it may be that there’s rain.
8. Cause and Consequence Conjunction
If you’re talking about cause or consequence, ‘que’ is used to connect two phrases and it translates to ‘that’, ‘because’ or ‘so’. Some examples are:
Lo quería tanto que mejor se lo presté.
He wanted it so badly that I let him borrow it.
Tendremos que comer más tarde, que todavía no es hora.
We’ll have to eat later, because it’s not time yet.
Quería pasar por mi temprano, que mejor madrugué.
He wanted to pick me up early, so I woke up early.
9. Actions with ‘Que’
This form of que is used in sentences that are explicative of an action or translate to ‘to make’. For example:
Ella quiere hacer que me porte asi.
She wants to make me behave that way.
Él quiere hacer que me vea ridículo.
He wants to make me look ridiculous.
10. Informal Uses
Spanish has many informal expressions that are part of day-to-day vocabulary. The word ‘que’ can be used for explanation, as a disjunction, or for reiteration. In these cases the word doesn’t translate exactly to a word in English.
Es que mi mamá no podrá acompañarnos.
It’s just that my mom won’t be able to join us.
Quieras que no, harás lo que yo te digo.
You’ll do what I tell you, whether you like it or not.
Fue una mañana ocupada y estuvieron habla que habla todo el tiempo.
It was a busy morning, and they were talking and talking all the time.
Let me ask you again: what does que mean in Spanish? After reading this blog post, I’m sure you’ll be able to answer!
It’s safe to say that the meanings of que are diverse. While it’s sometimes used with no specific translation to English, at other times que translates to “who,” “what,” “which,” “than,” “that,” and more.
As you move forward with your Spanish studies, you will continue to encounter the word que mean everywhere! If you’re ready to learn more about it and practice what you learned, sign up for a free trial class with our native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. Before you know it, you’ll be able to completely answer the question: what does ‘que’ mean in Spanish.
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