“Porque”, “por qué”, “porqué”
and “por que”
are four very similar constructions. The chances are, you may only be aware of two of these: “porque”
and “por qué”.
I certainly had only noticed these last two forms until very recently. However, after speaking to a Spanish friend of mine, she suggested that I take a closer look, as there are indeed other similar forms that can go completely unnoticed. Therefore, today we going to take a closer look at all four versions, once again highlighting the importance of accented vowels in castellano.
Before we take a closer look, let’s quickly discuss why these may go unnoticed or confused by newcomers, yet to native speakers are completely different.
Whilst it is true that all four forms that we’re about to see are identical expect for a single space or an accent over the é, they are indeed completely different forms with completely different meanings. Furthermore, with the advent of whatsapp and text speak, people tend to pay less attention to these differences. In the same way that English words like “there”, their” and “they’re” are extremely similar or “two”, “to” and “too”. Each of these examples can be and are often used in error. Equally, when we say these types of word out loud, they may be indistinguishable. However, this tends not to cause native speakers any problems, as the context of their usage will make it clear which version we really mean, even if the wrong version has been selected. This then, also rings true in Spanish, whereby you may see “porque”
written when really is should have been “por qué”.
It’s a common mistake made by many, yet with the rise of communicating in shorthand, more and more we tend not to care.
All this being said: as newcomers to Spanish it definitely serves us well to be sure we understand the difference between “porque”, “por qué”, “porqué”
and “por que”.
So, let’s take a closer look at each form: Porque | Because “Porque”
is a conjunction meaning “because” or “that” (indicating a result). It functions just like you’d expect, usually used to explain a situation, or linking two clauses whereby the second explains the first. There is an important grammatical rule with regards to “porque”,
in that you may only start a sentence with “porque”
if it’s answering the question “por qué?” (why?),
otherwise you should use “como” (since)
instead. Let’s see a few examples using “porque”:
Por qué | Why
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“No lo estoy comiendo porque es terrible” ||I'm not eating it because it's terrible |
|“Diciembre es mi mes favorito porque amo la Navidad” ||December is my favorite month because I love Christmas |
|“¿Por qué? |
-Because I said so!
|“Como llegan tarde, vamos a empezar” ||As / Since / Because they are late, we will start |
Even if you’ve only been studying Spanish for a short time, you will almost certainly have come across “por qué”.
it functions as a question phrase (requiring us to use upside down and regular question marks) and sometimes as a reported question (which does not).
If we remember that “porque” (because)
answers the question “por que?” (why?),
then it can often be easier to remember these two as a pair. The only difficulty then being remembering which is which.
Let’s see some examples of “por qué” in action:
(El) porqué | (The) reason or cause
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“¿Por qué no?” ||Why not? |
|“¿Por qué te ríes?” ||Why are you laughing? |
|“La pregunta es por qué no ha venido.” ||The question is why hasn't he come |
|“Deberíamos descubrir por qué” ||We should find out why |
Next up we have an unusual one. I have to admit I’ve never ever heard anyone actually use this in real life. That’s not to say it’s in any way wrong, it’s just not very common. “Porqué”
is a masculine noun meaning the reason or the cause, but you’d more commonly come across “la razón”
(the reason) or “la causa” (the cause).
It is easy to see how this somewhat old-fashioned noun has come about, as it can be seen as “the (reason) why” or “the because”. In the same way we might use the old English expression like “the whys and wherefores”.
Por que | For which
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“Ya han explicado el porqué” ||They have already explained the reason |
|“Supongo que es el porqué no lo quiere” ||I guess that's the reason he doesn't want it |
Last but not least, we come to the construction that is the most difficult to explain. It is the most difficult as it represents words that are typically optional in English or expressed in other ways. Let’s see an example:
“The song she is most famous for”
Whilst the above statement in English is perfectly fine, we could express it as:
“The song for which she is most famous”
It is the “for which” part that may be used in English, but often we omit completely or only use in part. Therefore, this kind of construction doesn’t always seem natural to English speakers as we tend to imply it, rather than express so verbosely.
As ever, the best way to explain these types of construction in Spanish is to see some examples:
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“Es la única razón por que sería posible” ||It is the only reason (for which) it would be possible |
|“La canción por (la) que es más famosa” ||The song for which she is most famous |
|“No sabemos la razón por que dijo eso” ||We don't know the reason (for which) he said that |
At times, in modern English we would tend to favour the word “why” in place of “for which”, so some of these examples may seem a little clumsy at best. However, they do help explain this somewhat tricky construction.
You may also see “por que” constructions like “Velaré por que todo esté bien” (I will ensure that everything will be fine).
In this case the word “por” is idiomatically used with the preceding verb and just happens to be followed by “que” (that)
, so it’s not quite the same. Conclusion | En conclusión
As we mentioned at the top of this article, most newcomers to Spanish will be aware of “porque” and “por qué”. These two are considered essential constructions. Whilst “porqué” is seldom used, and “por que” is somewhat tricky to understand, having a basic awareness of these is useful. Although, the latter really is quite an advanced concept, so do not feel bad if you struggle with it, as even native speakers often avoid it in favour of easier constructions.