So, I already know basic forms of this word (of, from, etc.), but I keep seeing it used in places that I don't understand. For example, I sometimes see "antes de que", or just "de que". Why does "de" need to be in there?

I also see it used with some verbs, and not with others.

I'd like to know the other uses of this word besides the standard definition.

  • 3
    That "de" before the "que" is so tricky that even native Spanish speakers don't always use them correctly. We call it dequeismo when there should NOT be a "de" before the "que" and someone actually puts it there. The contrary (not having the "de" when is needed before the "que") is called queismo. Maybe this latter link could give you some insight about when or why "de" (sometimes) must precede "que" (and when it shouldn't).
    – Diego
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 1:13
  • Also, you might find this other question useful.
    – Diego
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 1:17

3 Answers 3


This answer is strictly in the "que vs de que" context. Of course, de can have a whole bunch of other meanings depending on the context, as just like the English "of", de happens to be a part of dozens of idiomatic expressions. If you're curious of exploring those idiomatic expressions, any online dictionary should come in handy. I find Spanishdict and Wordreference quite organized and easy to look up. If you're particularly curious about the difference between de and de que, read on.

This post comes from here, I think it explains it in a comprehensive way. This is what it says: Source: spanish.about.com/od/partsofspeech/a/que_vs_de_que.htm

See the following two pairs of examples:

  • El plan que quiere es caro. The plan that he wants is expensive.
  • El plan de que los estudiantes participen en las actividades es caro. The plan that students participate in the activities is expensive.

Structurally, both sentences follow this pattern:

  • English: subject of sentence ("the plan") + dependent clause beginning with "that"
  • Spanish: subject of sentence ("el plan") + dependent clause beginning with que or de que

The grammatical difference between those may not be obvious, but in the first one, que translates "that" as a relative pronoun, while in the second de que translates "that" as a conjunction.

Although que can be used as a subordinate or subordinating conjunction when it follows a verb, de que normally is used as a subordinating conjunction following a noun.

So how can you tell if you're translating a sentence of this pattern to Spanish if "that" should be translated as que or de que? Almost always, if you can change "that" to "which" and the sentence still makes sense, "that" is being used as a relative pronoun and you should use que.

Otherwise, use de que. See how in the following sentences either "which" or "that" makes sense in English (although "that" is preferred by many grammarians):

  • Es una nación que busca independencia. It is a country that/which is seeking independence.
  • No hay factores de riesgo que se puedan identificar para la diabetes tipo 1. There are no risk factors that/which can be identified for Type 1 diabetes.
  • La garantía que brinda General Motors es aplicable a todos los vehículos nuevos marca Chevrolet. The guarantee that/which General Motors offers is applicable to all new Chevrolet-brand vehicles.

And here are some examples of de que being used as a conjunction. Note how the "that" of the English translations can't be replaced by "which":

  • El calcio reduce el riesgo de que el bebé nazca con problemas de peso. Calcium reduces the risk that the baby is born with weight problems.
  • Hay señales de alarma de que un niño está siendo abusado. There are warning signs that a child is being abused.
  • No hay ninguna garantía de que esta estrategia pueda funcionar. There is no guarantee that this strategy can work.
  • Ecuador admite posibilidad de que jefes de las Farc estén en su territorio. Ecuador is admitting the possibility that FARC leaders are in its territory.
  • La compañía quiere convencernos de que su producto es ideal para los jugadores empedernidos. The company wants to convince us that its product is idea for hard-core gamers.

Hope this helps!


I think that deeper, more profound answers require one to appeal to Linguistics. So I Googled "semantics of spanish prepositions" which revealed the following that should assist:

Huerta, Beth Lynn (2009). The semantics of the spanish prepositions en, a, and de: A cognitive approach (Order No. 3372152).
Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (305085088).
Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305085088?accountid=9851

At 24 pages, it is too long to reproduce here, but these details that should aid you to find it: It is dated June 26, 2009, and

A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

A partial quote from p 11 of 24 (Abstract) should already convince you of and to evidence its helpfulness:

Prepositions are a source of error for English-speakers learning Spanish throughout many years of study. Other than contrasts of por and para , very little emphasis is given to the semantics of prepositions in current SLA pr actices. However, a preposition in either Spanish or English may have several meanings associated with it which a native speaker would know and use. Since prepositions in both languages have multiple meanings which do not entirely equate to the most similar pre position in the other language, at times there is a match (equivalency) and at other tim es there is a mismatch between the two languages. English-speaking learners of Spanis h may attempt to equate the prepositions across languages if unaware of the differences in spatial relations coded by the prepositions in the two languages.
   This dissertation examines the prepositions en, a, and de in consideration of the subset of spatial relations that they form within the Spanish language, their primary meanings, and the semantic network of meanings associated with them. By using illustrations and explanations of spatial relations for the three Spanish prepositions as determined by Whitley, explanations of the system provided by Bull, semantic descriptions provided by the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española and the Diccionario de Construcción y Ré gimen de la Lengua Castellana , and by applying the model of principled polysemy for analyzing English prepositions proposed by Tyler and Evans, the current work provides a thorough description of en , a , and de from a cognitive perspective, that is, in terms of the concepts they convey. In order to provide a more complete analysis for the learner and educator, this work also includes a very brief description of grammaticalized usages of these prepositions.


I believe it's better to, and more understandable to a beginner/intermediate speaker, to combine the de with antes -- antes de.

  • Before running, I stretch.
  • Antes de correr me estiro.

If you wanted append this to a clause or something like that, then you could get fancy and use antes de que.. before [conjugated verb here]

Before I run, I stretch. Antes de que corro me estiro.

You could get even fancier

  • Joe whines before he has to do anything.
  • Joe grita antes de que tenga que hacer algo.

Antes de is followed by a verb in the infinitive (not conjugated). Antes de que precedes a clause with a conjugated verb.

If you use antes without de then it means beforehand.. and can typically leave a listener/reader anticipating a de or que, but if the context is there, then it will make sense

Carlos put on the mittens after grabbing the hot pan from the stove.

You're supposed to put them on beforehand!

Carlos se puso los mitones después de agarrar la bandeja del horno.

¡Hay que ponerlos antes!

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