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I think I've heard three ways of translating "the reason [something happened]" or "the reason [for something]":

  1. la razón para
  2. la razón de
  3. la razón por la que

What is the difference between these three constructions, and when would you use each?

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4

I'd say the differences are very subtle, and in most cases you could use any of the three options without much difference. But anyway:

  • "La razón para" generally would be used as "the reason for", as in "the reason to do something we have done in the past or are planning to do in the future".

    La razón para ilegalizar las drogas es que son malas para la salud.

  • "La razón de" can be used in the same context as case no. 1, but also to explain the reason why some event happened.

    La razón de que el edificio se cayera es que estaba mal construído.

  • "La razón por la que" can be used in the same context as cases 1 and 2, but is generally less used because it is longer. If you are using it like in case 1, the syntax is a bit different. You have to explain who's the one discussing the reason.

    La razón por la que el gobierno quiere ilegalizar las drogas es que son malas para la salud.

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  • Thanks, that helps. So what's the most common translation of a sentence like, "The reason he didn't come was..."?
    – jrdioko
    Mar 15 '13 at 18:37
  • To combine the examples: La razón por la que el capataz busca trabajo es que el edificio se cayera. La razón de que el edificio se cayera es que estaba mal construído. Estaba mal construído el edificio porque los trabajadores usaron drogas. La razón para ilegalizar las drogas es que queremos edificios estables. Mar 15 '13 at 21:19
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    @jrdioko, the ways I'd say that would be (for a more complete phrase like "The reason he didn't come was because he was sick"): La razón por la que no vino fue que estaba enfermo. La razón de que no viniese fue que estaba enfermo. No vino porque estaba enfermo. (Most common and short, but doesn't use the phrase you were looking for :))
    – Rorok_89
    Mar 19 '13 at 17:09

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