¿Cuándo debo usar “el que” y "el cual" (y “la que,” "la cual," etcétera) y cuándo debo usar “que”? Por ejemplo, ¿debo decir:

Él odia al hombre con que estaba yo hablando.


Él odia al hombre con el que estaba yo hablando.


Él odia al hombre con el cual estaba yo hablando.


¿Son todas estas oraciones correctas o no? ¿Cuáles son incorrectas y por qué?

Preferiría que se escriban las respuestas en inglés.

Clarificación: Yo entiendo la diferencia entre los pronombres interogativos "qué" y "cuál", que es completamente irrelevante a esta pregunta; yo estoy hablando de los pronombres relativos. Simplemente no sé cuándo debo añadir el artículo definido antes del pronombre relativo.

  • possible duplicate of Question words: "qué" versus "cuál". Even if the question is not completely the same, the answers may clarify a lot what you are trying to understand. If you think that the older question and answers don't help here let me know and I'll retract my vote to close.
    – Diego
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 14:58
  • @Diego: No, I understand the difference between the two interrogative pronouns "qué" and "cuál." What I am asking is specifically about why the article is added in front of the relative pronoun in these cases and the difference between "el que" and "el cual" as relative pronouns. I understand the distinction between "what" and "which"; I just don't know when to add the definite article before "que" and "cual."
    – Aprendedor
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 15:21
  • Fair enough. I'll retract my VTC. I thought that the "The difference is not very clear and borders on the idiomatic" in one of the answers would answer the difference between "que" and "cual" here. I understood that your question was about pronouns and their usage, not about the inclusion of the article.
    – Diego
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


I think is easier to start explaining with

Él odia al hombre con el cual estaba yo hablando.

You probably already know that "al" is equivalent to "a el". You could have said (although it sounds worse)

Él odia a el hombre con el cual estaba yo hablando.

You would have never said "Él odia a hombre", but "Él odia a el hombre", because you need the definite article before the noun. Que y cual are relative pronouns here, so they stand for "the man you were talking to" and thus you need the article.


Él odia al hombre con que estaba yo hablando.

sound a little bit off, and I would suggest using quien instead of que.

This link may be useful to clarify between the pronouns que/quien and the form el que/el cual (and in in English). You basically use the definite article to distinguish between multiple possible antecedents. It can't be appreciated that well in your example, where is almost the same using the article or not, but in the link there are other examples where the difference is more clear, such as

Los plátanos, los que son maduros, son deliciosos. (The plantains, which are ripe, are delicious.)

It you took the article ("Los plátanos, que son maduros, son deliciosos") you would be implying that all plantains are ripe, instead of differentiating a group among them.

  • 1
    The distinction that you mention in the last few sentences is really interesting. In English we would just omit the article before the noun to show we are talking generally. In Spanish, because you have to include the article with the noun anyway, you omit (and add) the article before the pronoun to show specificity versus generality.
    – Aprendedor
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 21:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.