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Pronombre relativo

A relative pronoun links a dependent/relative clause (i.e., a clause that cannot stand alone) to a main clause. The Spanish relative pronoun el cual usually means "who" or "whom" and has four different forms.

El cual has different forms in order to agree in gender and number with the noun it replaces:

  Singular Plural
masc el cual los cuales
fem la cual las cuales

El cual joins a main clause to a dependent or relative clause, replaces one or more words, and may refer to people or things. It’s used almost exactly like el que – they are nearly always interchangeable.*

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In nonrestrictive clauses (where the relative pronoun does not limit the person or thing it replaces), el cual can be both the subject and the object:

El profesor va a ayudarnos. Él vive en Barcelona.     
El profesor, el cual vive en Barcelona, va a ayudarnos.  Bag Party Sparkle Black Womens Box SWANKYSWANS Clutch Prom Melissa   The teacher, who lives in Barcelona, is going to help us.
     
Las chicas quieren trabajar juntas. Ellas son hermanas.    
Las chicas, las cuales son hermanas, quieren trabajar juntas.   The girls, who are sisters, want to work together.

El cual can simultaneously replace a human antecedent and be the object of a preposition:

Ana quiere al hombre. Yo lo vi.    
Ana quiere al hombre al cual yo vi.   Ana loves the man (that) I saw.
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Las chicas no han llegado. Mi hermano trabaja con ellas.    
Las chicas con las cuales mi hermano trabaja no han
llegado.
  The girls with whom my brother works haven’t arrived.
     
Los estudiantes están aquí. Hablaba de ellos.   The students about whom I was talking are here.
(or The students [whom] I was talking about are here).
Los estudiantes de los cuales hablaba están aquí. Clutch Party Box SWANKYSWANS Bag Melissa Black Prom Womens Sparkle  

*There are a few situations in which only el cual should be used. Aside from being somewhat more formal than el que, el cual is usually used in the following cases:

1. When the relative pronoun is separated from its antecedent, either by other words or some sort of grammatical pause (such as a colon or period):

Hay un perro en mi barrio, el cual ladra toda la noche.   There’s a dog in my neighborhood who barks all night.
Cuando fui al mercado, había un problema con mi tarjeta de crédito; el cual fue arreglado por mi banco. Prom Party Box Bag Womens Black Clutch Sparkle SWANKYSWANS Melissa   When I went to the store, there was a problem with my credit card; it was fixed by my bank.

2. After most multi-syllable prepositions and prepositional phrases:

La casa frente a la cual yo vivo   The house I live across from
Las enfermedades contra las cuales luchamos   The diseases we are fighting against

3. After según, when it means "according to":

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El principio según el cual …   The principle according to which …
La profesora según la cual …   The teacher according to whom …

4. After indefinite pronouns and expressions of quantity:

Vi a los estudiantes, algunos de los cuales me saludaron.   I saw the students, some of whom waved at me.
Tengo una casa en Madrid, la mitad de la cual es aquilada.   I have a house in Madrid, half of which is rented.

Related lessons

Micro kwiz: El cual - Relative Pronoun
1 of 6
Elena, ___ trabaja en mi tienda, se casa mañana. (Elena, who works in my shop, is getting married tomorrow.)
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