I read from a book: Ya he pensado todo lo que tenia que pensar hoy. Why do we need to add ‘lo’ in this sentence? Why not just: Ya he pensado todo que tenia que pensar hoy.?

2 Answers 2


Singular "todo" can be an adjective, meaning "every" (or "any"), or a pronoun, meaning "all" or "everything":

  • Todo pensamiento cuenta (Every thought counts).
  • Todo cuenta (Everything counts).

"Lo que" is a nominal relative pronoun equivalent to English "what", while "que" is a relative pronoun equivalent to English "that" ("que" can also be a conjunction, but that is not the point here).

Curiously, while other similar pronouns like "algo" ("something"), "poco" ("little") and "mucho" ("a lot") can be modified by a relative clause introduced by "que", "todo" cannot:

  • Ya he pensado algo que puedo hacer. (I've already thought of something that I can do.)

  • Hay poco que puedes hacer. (There is little that you can do.)

  • Hay mucho que puedes hacer. (There is a lot that you can do.)

With "todo", "que" alone is ungrammatical and "lo que" is required. In this case, "lo que" acts as a noun ("the things that") and "todo" functions as an adjective). This is different from English, where "all" is a pronoun that can be modified by relative "that":

  • Esto es todo LO QUE puedo hacer. (This is all that I can do.)

"Lo que" serves as a neuter relative pronoun, usually meaning "that," "what", "it", "that which", "whatever", "the thing", "the things" or "the thing(s) that". It is used here to refer to a general idea and cannot be omitted in Spanish, i.e.

  • Ya he pensado todo lo que[=the things that] tenía que pensar hoy(I've thought everything [ ] I had...)
  • Ahorraba lo que le sobraba de(she saved whatever[=cualquier cosa, lo que sea, lo que estaba a su alcance] was left over of..)
  • Perdió todo lo que(=the things that he/she had in there, in other words, EVERYTHING) había tenido.
  • Todo lo que tenemos es aquí y ahora(=that's all there is, nothing more)
  • Lo primero en lo que hay que(=The first thing we have to)
  • Thank you for your explanation. When can I just use ‘que’ instead of ‘lo que’? What are the differences?
    – Alan
    Nov 7, 2021 at 6:53
  • @Alan In a context such as your example suggests, "que" makes no sense without "lo".
    – cocteau
    Nov 7, 2021 at 13:21
  • 2
    @Alan -- the question "When can I just use ‘que’ instead of ‘lo que’?" is "ill-formed", in that, well, there are many uses of "que" that are not even related to the possibility of "lo que" ("pienso que la respuesta es NO"; "no conozco a nadie que omita el LO"), .... see other examples in Gustavson's answer, where "que" is used without "lo" before. I guess I would answer your question as: in any example/scenario where one would say "lo que", you simply cannot omit the "lo" ("haré lo que yo quiera"; "esto es lo que se me ocurre como respuesta", "memoricé todo lo que he leído hoy", etc.)
    – Cal-linux
    Nov 13, 2021 at 13:15

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