How to use “porque”, “por que”, “por qué” and “porqué”

As a non-native Spanish speaker, you may be thinking: “what the… are all those??” Don’t worry, many Spanish speakers feel the same way. Lyngua Translations to the rescue! Let’s see the differences between these four words that are so similar in spelling yet so different in meaning.

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Por qué

These two words are the Spanish equivalent for “why”, so they are going to be used to ask for reasons. They must always be written in two different words, and the “qué” must have the accent, as it is an interrogative word, and in Spanish all question words must have the accent (qué, cuándo, cómo…) whether it is a direct question (“¿Dónde vives?”) or an indirect question (“Me preguntó dónde vivía”).


The answer to the previous words is “porque”, which is the Spanish equivalent for “because”. That way, it is used to answer to the question “por qué”, or it can also be used to give reasons, not only in questions but also in other type of sentences, like “No voy a ir al cine porque estoy cansada” (I’m not going to the cinema because I’m tired). In this case, nobody asked you the reason why you aren’t going to the cinema, but you give it anyway. 

Por que

This is one of the least used of all four. It is equivalent to “por el que” (equivalent to “por el cual”), “por la que” (equivalent to “por la cual”), etc., and in Spanish we tend to not omit the article. However, it can be used, it is correct. We probably would mostly see it in more formal contexts. In English, it can be translated as “in/for/by which”, but the translation will depend on the context (we’re translators, don’t judge us).

In a sentence like “La razón por que lo hizo fue que necesitaba el dinero”, the translation would be: “The reason why she did it was because she needed the money”. However, in the sentence “Ese es el parque por que paseábamos de niños”, we would translate it as “That is the park in which we went for a walk as kids”.

These two words can also be used together but separately. What do we mean with this? Well, in Spanish there are “complementos de régimen”, which are verbs that need a specific preposition so that they have complete meaning. Some verbs require the preposition “por”, like “optar por” (opt for), “preocuparse por” (worry about), “velar por” (look after)… In this case, if what follows is a subordinate noun phrase, it probably begins with “que”. That way, we can say “Se preocuparon por que sus hijas llegasen a tiempo” (they worried about their girls arriving in time).


This last word is a noun, and it is a synonym for “razón”, “motivo”, “reason”, in English. That way, we can use them interchangeably, keeping in mind that “razón” is feminine, and “porqué” and “motivo” are masculine. Thus, we can say “No entiendo la razón de su enfado”, or “No entiendo el porqué de su enfado”, meaning “I don’t understand the reason for his anger.”

Practise the differences with this exercise:

Have you got any doubts related to this? Tell us in the comments!

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