How to Use ‘Quien’ in Spanish (and Make Better Jokes)
Understanding and knowing how to use quien in Spanish can come useful in unexpected situations. For example:
– knock, knock.
– Who’s there?
These classic kid’s jokes also exist in Spanish, and they go like this:
– Toc, toc.
– ¿Quién es?
After reading this article, you’ll be able to laugh along with your Spanish-speaking friends the next time you hear a toc, toc joke!
Let me explain how to use quien in Spanish in two ways with lots of examples. You’ll see quien in Spanish in context and you’ll be able to check your learning with a quiz in the end.
And, as a bonus, I will share some Toc, toc. ¿Quién es? jokes!
How to Use Quien in Spanish
You use quien in Spanish in two different ways: as a question word and as a relative pronoun.
We’ll cover the difference between these two uses in detail, and how it affects the spelling, meaning, and placement in a sentence.
The good news is that you don’t need to wonder how to pronounce quien differently in each situation, as it’s always the same:
/’kjen/ (or “key-en”)
Quién in Spanish as a Question Word
The first use of quién is to ask questions. Question words in Spanish help us in the same way they do in English—to ask questions. They start interrogative sentences.
However, in Spanish, you need to put an accent mark over them, and an upside-down question mark before them.
¿Quién es tu jefe?
Who is your boss?
There are seven basic question words in Spanish:
You can read more about them in The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Use Question Words in Spanish.
Did you notice that there are two Spanish words for “who”?
Yes, that’s right. The interrogative pronoun quién also has a plural form: quiénes.
You’ll use it to ask about the identity of more than one person, with the verb in the plural.
¿Quién es ella?
Who is she?
¿Quiénes son ellas?
Who are they?
Some questions with quién have a preposition (a, con, para, de):
¿A quién escribiste?
Who did you write to?
¿Con quién cenaste?
Who did you have dinner with?
¿Para quién es?
Who is it for?
¿De quién es?
Whose is it?
Quien in Spanish as a Relative Pronoun
Quien in Spanish is also a relative pronoun. It’s not the first thing you learn about quien, as relative pronouns are introduced around the B1 CEFR level.
What are relative pronouns in Spanish? These words introduce a clause that refers to a noun mentioned before. In English, these words include that, which, who, whom, and whose. In Spanish, you’ll have words like que, el que, quien, cuyo, among others.
Me encanta la nueva escuela que construyeron.
I love the new school that was built.
See more: How to Use Relative Pronouns in Spanish
Quien as a relative pronoun does not include the written accent. The relative pronoun quien in Spanish means “who” or whom” and it refers only to people. It also has a plural form, so if the noun it refers to is singular you use quien—if it is plural, you use quienes.
As a relative pronoun, quien can refer to the subject or the direct object.
Let me show you first some example sentences where quien refers to the subject.
La profesora, quien trabaja en mi escuela, tiene dos hijas.
The teacher, who works in my school, has two kids.
Mis primas, quienes viven en Madrid, vendrán a visitarnos.
My cousins, who live in Madrid, will come to visit us.
When quien refers to the direct object, you have to put the personal preposition a before it.
Ella conoce al entrenador a quien todos respetan.
She knows the trainer whom everyone respects.
You can also use the relative pronoun quien if you put a preposition before it.
Los chicos con quienes hablé regresaron.
The guys I talked to came back.
La mujer de quien te conté me escribió otra vez.
The woman I told you about wrote to me again.
Mi hijo, para quien compré esta pelota, juega basketball.
My son, for whom I bought this ball, plays basketball.
Quien in Spanish – Multiple-choice Quiz
It’s time to see how much you’ve learned!
For each sentence below, choose one of the four options depending on whether quien should be a relative pronoun or a question word with a written accent.
Remember to check if you need the singular or the plural form.
1. Él fue _________ lo hizo.
2. ¿_________ te lo contó?
3. Mi papá a _________ admiro trabaja mucho.
4. No conozco a nadie _________ hable 100 idiomas.
5. ¿_________ habla?
6. ¿A _________ viniste a ver? ¿A ellos?
7. Estos son los chicos _________ vinieron ayer.
8. ¿De _________ es este carro?
9. ¿_________ son ustedes?
10. La mujer con _________ vivo es mi tía.
Knock, Knock Jokes Using ‘Quien’ in Spanish
Good job! I bet you nailed the quiz on quien in Spanish.
Ready to fill your repertoire of jokes with toc, toc. ¿quién es? jokes?
– Toc toc.
– ¿Quién está allí?
– Yo soy.
– ¿Yo soy quién?
– ¿Tú no sabes quién eres?
– Knock knock.
– Who’s there?
– I am.
– I am who?
– You don’t know who you are?
Read more of these jokes here to practice using quien in Spanish. Maybe next time you can try to surprise a Spanish-speaking neighbor with one! Did you know that according to CNN, there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. who speak Spanish in their homes? Plenty of public to practice your stand-up comedy in Spanish. You never know when it may become useful.
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