Is it ‘Que’ or ‘De Que’? Find Out Which to Use and When
Choosing between que and de que in Spanish can be confusing and challenging. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to select which one to use—don’t stress! This actually happens to advanced learners and to native Spanish speakers like myself!
While learning the difference between que and de que can be useful, it shouldn’t stop you from practicing conversational Spanish. Like other grammatical rules, you’ll pick this up as you move forward and advance in your Spanish studies!
There are a few elements to look out for when considering which to use.
So, let’s get started—join me as I unravel the dilemma of que or de que in Spanish!
Why is the Distinction Difficult?
Both que and de que in Spanish frequently translate to “that” in English. The distinction seems difficult due to different functions and certain rules to follow. But grammatically speaking, the distinction is actually simple: que is a relative pronoun and de que in Spanish is a conjunction.
Let me break it down for you with an example:
Una de las cosas que tenía que aprender era cocinar.
One of the things that I had to learn was cooking.
This example uses que as a relative pronoun, which introduces a clause that provides more information about the noun las cosas. When you add the word que into this sentence, the meaning of the noun las cosas is amplified. It’s not only about las cosas, but about las cosas que tenía que aprender.
Let’s take a look at this second example:
Tenía la sensación de que me iba a pasar algo.
I had the feeling that something was going to happen to me.
When you add de que after a noun, it serves as a conjunction. In simple terms, the function of a conjunction is to connect words or a sentence with a subordinate clause. And in this case, when you add de que to the sentence, the verb tenía and noun la sensación are connected to me iba a pasar algo, a clause that’s considered subordinate (or dependent) on the main clause.
Que vs De Que: As Relative Pronouns
As I mentioned above—in Spanish grammar, relative pronouns introduce a clause that provides more information about a noun. While there are many relative pronouns in Spanish, today we’re focusing exclusively on que and de que.
Hand-picked for you: How to Use Relative Pronouns in Spanish the Easy Way.
When to Choose “Que”
A good tip for making the distinction between que and de que is to replace the meaning of que in English to “that” or “which” in what you’re saying.
If the sentence still makes sense in English with both words, then you know que serves the purpose of a relative pronoun.
Let’s examine a few examples where both “that” and “which” work:
Es un lugar que tiene muchos árboles.
It’s a place (that / which) has many trees.
Es una casa que queda lejos.
It’s a house (that / which) is far away.
El contrato que tiene el hotel aplica para todos los empleados.
The contract (that / which) the hotel has applies to all employees.
When to Choose “De Que”
Now let’s look at the opposite scenario:
If you translate the sentence in Spanish, and you replace que with “which,” but the sentence no longer makes sense, this means it requires de que in Spanish.
Some examples where you add de que are:
Tomar vitaminas reduce el riesgo de que te enfermes.
Taking vitamins reduces the risk that you get sick.
Tengo la esperanza de que mi hermana podrá venir.
I have hope that my sister will come.
Hay posibilidad de que no haya clases mañana.
There’s a chance that there won’t be classes tomorrow.
PRO TIP! Remember this previous tip will only work for sentences that use que or de que after a noun.
Pronominal Verb + Subordinate Clause
Keep your eyes open for pronominal verbs that require the preposition de (called “prepositional phrases”). These verbs pair with a subordinate clause that doesn’t make sense on its own and the natural formation that occurs is de que.
Let’s look at an example of de que with this type of verb:
Me alegro de que estés bien.
I’m happy you are alright.
What you see here is the formula of a pronominal verb (alegrarse de) + subordinate clause (que estes bien) coming together to create a de que combination.
Other pronominal verbs include:
- acordarse de (remember that)
- alegrarse de (rejoice at)
- arrepentirse de (regret that)
- olvidarse de (forget about)
These verbs are naturally reflexive verbs (meaning they require a reflexive pronoun) and they’re always followed by the preposition de before a subordinate clause.
Common Mistakes for Spanish Natives: Queísmo and Dequeísmo
For native Spanish speakers and learners alike, it’s entirely too easy to misuse que instead of de que—or, vice versa—while speaking or writing. These errors are so common among Spanish speakers that they even have their own name: respectively, queísmo and dequeísmo.
Native Spanish speakers call queísmo (“que-ism”) the very common grammatical error of suppressing the proposition de (of) before the conjunction que (that / which).
This preposition is necessary and required by either the verb or by another word in a sentence that demands it syntactically. A good example of a frequent queísmo is the expression darse cuenta de que (to realize that), where the preposition de shouldn’t be omitted but most people skip it.
The queísmo with this phrase looks like:
No sé si ella se dió cuenta que yo leí su libro. (ERROR)
I don’t know if she realized that I read her book.
This sentence doesn’t pass the test of replacing que with “which”, meaning that que is not a relative pronoun but instead a conjunction. In order for this statement to be grammatically correct, you must add de que.
The correct form of the sentence is:
No se si ella se dió cuenta de que yo leí su libro.
I don’t know if she realized that I read her book.
Still, most Spanish speakers will say darse cuenta que most of the time, making this a classic queísmo.
Dequeísmos (“de que-ism”) on the other hand, is the introduction of the proposition de before the conjunction que when said proposition is not syntactically required and is unnecessary.
Some examples of dequeísmos are:
Incorrect: Creo de que es demasiado tarde para hacer las cosas bien.
Correct: Creo que es demasiado tarde para hacer las cosas bien.
English: I think that it’s too late to do things right.
Incorrect: A mis papás les preocupa de que no tengo trabajo.
Correct: A mis papás les preocupa que no tengo trabajo.
English: My parents are worried that I don’t have a job.
Incorrect: Yo creía de que no cocinabas.
Correct: Yo creía que no cocinabas.
English: I believed you didn’t cook.
This last example has the verb creía (believed), which is a transitive verb. Transitive verbs can take a direct object— like in this case, the noun phrase: no cocinabas.
It’s not necessary to include de que in Spanish after transitive verbs, as the verb already has a relation with the following object. In fact, by adding de, you’re likely to alter the meaning of the verb.
Que vs De Que: “The Question Test”
If the test of replacing que with “that” and “which” doesn’t convince you, another useful tip is to transform the statement into an interrogative. If the question has to include the preposition de for it to make sense, then the original statement must include it.
Se dio cuenta de que no estaba.
He noticed that he wasn’t here.
¿De que se dio cuenta?
What did he notice?
No me gusta que vengas tarde.
I don’t like it that you’re late.
¿Que no te gusta?
What don’t you like?
Dequeísmos are usually a consequence of people over-correcting Spanish to avoid a queísmo. So even if it goes by the rule and it doesn’t sound right, don’t sweat it. There’s a chance it’ll work and people will understand you.
Languages Aren’t Always Grammatically Correct
Spanish learners like you need to keep in mind that while grammar is incredibly valuable, it shouldn’t stop you from expanding and practicing conversational skills. So while que or de que in Spanish have their grammatical demands in order to be correct, I suggest you keep trying to carry on Spanish conversations as often as possible and, no doubt, you’ll get the hang of it.
If you want to continue improving your conversational Spanish skills, sign up for a free class with our native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. It’ll be worth your while and choosing que or de que in Spanish will get much easier!
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