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I need help understanding the syntax of using “el que” as the substitute for “que” and “quien.”

In English and in Spanish with “que” and “quien,” the relative clauses make perfect sense alone when the inversion is removed.

For example…

Las chicas a quienes regalé rosas son hermanas.

The girls to whom I gave roses are sisters.

Alone and with inversion removed, the relative clause makes sense: I gave the roses to whom. (We understand that the pronoun whom, or the antecedent of the pronoun whom, receives the roses.)

However, the “el que”/“el cual” seems to use syntax that is very different, or at least impossible to translate in English.

For example…

La gente con la que fui a la fiesta es buena.

Its literally translated relative clause does not make sense:

I went to the party with the people that.

However, this is a perfectly valid use of the “el que” construction in relative clauses. It just doesn’t make sense to me. “El que,” in this case, seems to be a relative clause within a relative clause, to the eyes of an English speaker. This makes it difficult for me to comprehend the syntax construction of “el que” here.

It does make perfect sense to use it in the interjection syntax:

Creo que esas personas, las que fueron a la fiesta, son graciosas.

I think those people, the ones who went to the party, are funny.

Is there any way to break down the use of “el que” in the relative clause use so that someone like me can understand it? It would help me have a stronger understanding of Spanish pronouns/clauses.

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  • The translation of "La gente con la que fui a la fiesta es buena" would be "People I went to the party with, are good". In Spanish we don't have the choice of adding a preposition at the end of the sentence to make a relative sentence.
    – R18
    Jul 15, 2022 at 6:56
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    La gente con la que fui a la fiesta es buena. translates to: The people with whom I went to the party are good people. However, in everyday language we say: The people I went to the party with are good.//I am having trouble understanding your question and confusion re this grammatical point. Can you please clarify?
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:53
  • I’m trying to put a square peg in a round hole and quickly realizing that it does not work. In other words, some of the Spanish constructions simply don’t translate. (Crazy, right?) But I like to learn this way anyway, even if it confuses other people. It works in my head. Jul 15, 2022 at 16:10
  • In this instance, the relative clause with the preposition does not translate word-for-word. The “el” (or “la” in this case) is totally unnecessary in English. That’s what I’m getting at and perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in my question. The el/la dies upon translation. Jul 15, 2022 at 16:14
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    Yes, it does: La gente con la que is with WHOM. :)
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 16:43

4 Answers 4

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Aspectos Generales


Pronombres relativos : que, el que, la que, los que, las que

Se usa el relativo “el que” cuando el antecedente que queremos no repetir, definir o identificar se refiere a una realidad concreta, de género masculino.


Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

https://www.rae.es/dpd/que

No siempre "que" es relativo.


Los "Pronombres Relativos" son palabras que empleamos habitualmente para;

  • 1.- No duplicar un nombre mencionado anteriormente.

    "Tengo una coche. El coche es pequeño —- Tengo un coche **que** es pequeño. 
    
  • 2.- "que" sirve para definir el nombre al que se refiere.

    "Un lápiz es un objeto **que** escribe".
    
  • 3.- "que" determina o identifica aquello a lo que se refiere.

    "¿De aquellos, quién es Pedro?. Es el hombre **que** está al lado de mi hermano".
    

¿Cuándo usamos que? ¿Cuándo el que, la que, los que , las que?

Cuando el QUE se refiere a personas, animales o cosas.

"La obra de piano que interpretó era la "Flauta Mágica" de Amadeus Mozart".

"Los caballos que hay en el zoo son blancos".


Con EL QUE/ LA QUE/ LOS QUE/ LAS QUE, nos referimos igualmente a personas, animales o cosas, pero en estos casos, encontramos una preposición, delante de cada pronombre relativo.

  • La obra con la que empezó el concierto era de Amadeus Mozart.

  • El coche del que te dije, se arreglo repentinamente sin llevarlo al taller.

  • Los perros para los que llevamos comida todos los días, son todos blancos.

(Guía y mantiene la frase encauzada)

Hay que tener en cuenta que a veces se usa el que/la que/ los que/ las que, en primera posición en la frase, en casos así, siempre nos referimos a algo mencionado anteriormente.

"¿Quién es tu sobrino?. El que lleva pantalones blancos".

"¿Quién es tu sobrino?. El (aquel) que lleva pantalones blancos".


"¿Qué pantalones te gustan más?. Los que lleva Juan".

"¿Qué pantalones te gustan más?. Los (aquellos) que lleva Juan".


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    Diego, forgive me but by posting an entire course chapter on line, as it were, the question gets lost....
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:56
  • It’s a lot, and most of it I knew and admittedly didn’t ask for, but hey—if someone searches for advice on the “el que” relative pronoun, which does not translate easily to English, they can come here. Although, I’m concerned that because most of this is in Spanish, that person wouldn’t understand this. Jul 15, 2022 at 16:07
  • @Lambie, gracias por tu comentario. He intentado dividir la cuestión en dos partes, una formal y otra menos ortodoxa para compensar el hilo de la temática.
    – Diego
    Jul 15, 2022 at 16:08
  • @Sebastian Pojman-Malo, he dividido la cuestión, esta segunda parte más corta, estaba pensada para ti, pero al no saber tu nivel gramatical de este tema, tuve que hablar de aspectos generales al principio. Gracias
    – Diego
    Jul 15, 2022 at 16:12
  • Ah. Yo entiendo. Muchas gracias por su información aquí. :) Jul 15, 2022 at 16:14
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Generally speaking "el que", "quien" and "el cual" have equivalent functions and are interchangeable (sometimes with some syntactical differences and other complications).

Some key points that differentiate them:

  • que and cual varies according to the number and gender of the referent and is preceded by an article:

Los chicos a los que regalé rosas son hermanos.

La chica a la que regalé rosas es tímida.

La chica a la cual regalé rosas es tímida.

El chico al que regalé rosas es tímida. (a + el = al)

  • quien changes only according to the number of the referent and cannot be preceded by an article:

La chica a quien regalé rosas es tímida.

El chico a quien regalé rosas es tímido.

Los chicos a quienes regalé rosas son hermanos.

  • The referent of quien must be a human person, while that of el que and el cual may not be.

Tuvieron una gran idea, la que permanecerá en secreto. (Right)

Tuvieron una gran idea, quien permanecerá en secreto. (Wrong)

  • el que is the most common form, while quien and el cual are mostly used in written language and in more formal situations.
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This answer is comparative for the Spanish and English structure. The other answer is fine but it's more of an complete overview.

  • La gente con la que fui a la fiesta es buena.

That translates into standard English as:

The people with whom I went to the party are good people.

El amigo con que fui al cine está enfermo.

The friend with whom I went to the movies is sick.

Now, here's the trick: only in formal writing (mostly), does English use with whom and with whose. What English does is take the preposition (go to [some place] with someone) and put it at the end.

The people I went to the party with are good people.
The friend I went to the movies with is sick.

What is different then is the informal version versus the formal version. The formal versions are similar and the informal ones are not.

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  • Sorry, I’m trying to clarify my question here. I’m well aware of the spoken and standard uses of English prepositions. That’s not my issue… I’m specifically asking about the extra “la” thrown in there when it simply disappears upon translation. Also, for what it’s worth, “la gente con que” is probably nonstandard. Usually it’s “la gente con quien,” from what I know. But that’s just digressing on my part… Jul 15, 2022 at 16:46
  • Put it another way, “la que” is two words, whereas “whom” is one. Somehow we went from two to one. That’s the basis of this post, for anybody looking at this thread. Jul 15, 2022 at 16:56
  • I keep repeating: It does not disappear. con la, con el etc corresponds structurally to "with whom" or "with whose". Yes, con quien is standard.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 17:00
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    Look, in English we say: with whom and with whose replace and they replace the word that. con la is with whom, there is no that in English as whom replaces that.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 17:07
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    Correction: Look, in English we say: with whom and with whose, and they replace the word that. con la is with whom, there is no that in English since whom replaces that.
    – Lambie
    Jul 15, 2022 at 17:22
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Respuesta menos ortodoxa

Para que intentes entender este tipo de frases, ten en cuenta que casi siempre has de sobrentender aspectos relativos a la oración, aunque sean explícitos, o se encuentren de manera implícita o abstracta.

Ejem.

"El que te diga que te vayas, no significa que lo hagas".

"El (hecho) que te diga, que te vayas, no significa que lo hagas"

Aunque gramaticalmente no es lo más correcto, en un principio te puede ayudar a que tenga cierto sentido para ti y poco a poco vayas profundizando.

Tus ejemplos;

La preposición "con" seguida del relativo "que"

La gente con la que fui a la fiesta es buena.

La gente con la "cual" (con cuya compañía) fui a la fiesta es buena.


"Creo que esas personas, las que fueron a la fiesta, son graciosas".

  • Creo que las personas que fueron a la fiesta, son graciosas.

Piensa simplemente que en estos casos, es una manera de intuir o no repetir determinados nombres o hechos que por alguna razón ya se sobrentienden en la frase.

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