10 Essential Ways to Use “Que” in Spanish
Have you ever wondered how to use “que” in Spanish?
It seems like a small and pretty insignificant word, right?
Well, you’ll be amazed to discover how many different ways you can use it and how its meaning changes depending on how you use it.
“What?!” you may say.
Yes. Just look back at the title.
So, keep reading to learn about the extraordinary que, the different ways you can use it, and how a little accent mark on it can change the meaning of a sentence.
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The little word que is one of those ubiquitous pieces of language that seem to hold everything together.
You can find que everywhere, from questions to conjunctions and interjections. It’s just a fundamental piece of the Spanish language.
Therefore, you must learn how to use its different meanings properly.
The best you can do is expose yourself to the language and speak it regularly. You can do that with one of our certified Spanish teachers. We’re sure they’ll be happy to help you master que.
Or you can try to learn the tidbits of grammar here first and apply the theory in your everyday Spanish conversations.
Que and Qué
When looking for the meaning of que, you have to consider if the word has an accent or not.
The word is the same but can be used differently, and the accent plays a critical role.
In a minute, we’ll explore the different meanings of que, but now you must understand that when que has an accent, as in qué, it is because it’s part of a question, an exclamation, or an interjection.
Look for question or exclamation marks in a sentence; if they are there, it’s likely that the que has a written accent. Spanish speakers call this accent a tilde.
However, it’s important to mention that the accent means that the word plays a different role in the sentence.
Let’s dig deeper. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
What Does “Que” Mean in Spanish?
As explained before, que in Spanish has different meanings. Let’s explore ten of them.
This might be the definition that people use the most. However, just as in English, you can use “what” in different ways.
In Spanish, you can also use this version of que in different situations.
Most times, when que means “what,” it’s part of a question or exclamation and, as such, should be written with an accent.
¿Qué me compraste?
What did you buy me?
¿Qué le pasó a María?
What happened to Maria?
¡Qué gran película!
What a great movie!
What a disappointment!
Sometimes, qué with an accent and question mark can mean “which,” and qué with an accent and an exclamation mark may mean “how.”
Those are the next two meanings of que that we’ll focus on.
Although most of the time questions starting with ¿Qué…? translate as “what,” sometimes the proper translation is “which.”
Take a look at the following examples:
¿Qué color prefieres, el rojo o el azul?
Which color do you prefer, red or blue?
¿Qué auto es?
Which car is it?
The key to identifying if ¿Qué…? means “what” or “which” is in the Spanish word cuál.
If you can change qué for cuál in the question, then it definitely means “which.”
¿Cuál color prefieres, el rojo o el azul?
Which color do you prefer, red or blue?
¿Cuál coche es?
Which car is it?
When you use qué with an accent, it usually means that your sentence is an exclamation or an interjection.
In the cases mentioned above, ¡Qué…! usually translates as “What…!”. But there are some cases when “How…!” is the best translation.
Look at these examples:
The actual meaning of que here depends on the adjective used in the sentence.
So, if you translate a sentence and use “what,” but it sounds off, try “how” to see how that works.
One of the most common ways to translate que (without an accent) is as “that.” In this case, the role of que is that of a pronoun used to define a subject or object.
Esta es la casa que quiero para nosotros.
This is the house that I want for us.
La ciudad que más me gustó fue Londres.
London was the city that I liked the most.
In some cases, you can also use que in a subjunctive phrase to express a desire or suggestion, and it also translates as “that.”
Te sugiero que te quedes donde estás.
I suggest that you stay where you are.
Desearía que nunca te hubieras ido.
I wish that you’d never left.
When used in a comparison, que in Spanish can also mean “than.”
Su casa es más vieja que la mía.
His house is older than mine.
El Real Madrid ha ganado más campeonatos que el Barcelona.
Real Madrid has won more championships than Barcelona.
Another translation for que in Spanish is “to,” and you use it when you compare two different things or more.
Prefiero Buenos Aires que Montevideo.
I prefer Buenos Aires to Montevideo.
Prefiero tacos que hamburguesas.
I prefer tacos to burgers.
In some situations, you use que to express a need or requirement. In these cases, que comes after the verb tener or “to have,” which translates as “to.”
Tengo que ir a casa por mi hermana.
I have to go home to pick up my sister.
Erika tiene que repetir el año escolar.
Erika has to repeat the school year.
7. Who, Whom
Other times, que may also mean “who” or “whom” when used to define the subject.
Este es el hombre que me salvó la vida.
This is the man who saved my life.
Hoy vi a una chica con la que solía trabajar.
I saw a girl today with whom I used to work.
In some subjunctive phrases that express wish or desire, you can use que, which translates as “may.” Are there any Star Wars fans out there?
Que la Fuerza te acompañe.
May the Force be with you.
Que Dios te bendiga.
May God bless you.
You can use que to talk about cause, finality, or consequence. In this case, it would work as a conjunction that connects two phrases, and it translates as “so.”
Canta un poco, que te escuchen.
Sing a little bit, so they hear you.
Quería pasar por mi temprano, que mejor madrugué.
He wanted to pick me up early, so I woke up early.
Finally, you can also use que to give an order or express a command.
Que empiecen los juegos.
Let the games begin.
¡Que lo dejes terminar!
Let him finish!
Some Grammar Structures That Use Que in Spanish
As you can see, there are many ways to use que, and its meaning vary accordingly.
You can also find que in some compound grammar structures and phrases. This means even more ways to use this word.
Let’s learn some of them and their meanings in English:
|lo que sea||whatever|
|mientras que||meanwhile/as long as|
|para que/qué||for what/in order to|
|ya que||inasmuch as, being that|
|en que||in which, in that|
These are just some of the ways to use que.
¿Qué te parece?
This means, “What do you think?” It isn’t that hard, right?
We know. Sometimes you may confuse one use with another, but you’ll get them all right with time and practice.
Remember that the important thing is to practice. The best way to learn is through experience.
So, we invite you to sign up for a free trial class with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala and start using que in all its different ways from day one.
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