An Introduction to Prepositions and Relative Pronouns
Free Spanish Lessons

  Verb Tenses  
    An introduction to verbs & personal pronouns  
    Verbs - Ser (to be) Estar (to be)  
    The present simple tense - regular verbs (I am)  
    The present simple tense - irregular verbs (I am)  
    The past simple tense - regular verbs (I was)  
    The past simple tense - irregular verbs (I was)  
    The imperfect tense - all verbs (I used to)  
    The future tense - all verbs (I will be)  
    The continuous tenses (I am going)  
    The perfect tenses - regular and irregular verbs  
    The conditional tense - regular and irregular verbs  
    The present subjunctive tense  
    The past subjunctive tense (If I were to)  
    The infinitive tense (verbs in their original forms - to be)  
    The imperative tense (command verbs - go / stay etc)  
    'Haber' with the conditional and past subjunctive tenses  
  More About Verbs  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 1  
    Reflexive verbs - Part 2  
    The 'Gerund' (the equivalent of forming 'ing...' verbs)  
    'Gustar' and similar verbs - A different way of using verbs  
Spain v Latin America
  All About Articles  
    Articles - definite / indefinite ('the' and 'a' in English)  
  All About Nouns  
    Nouns - Part 1 - (Masculine or feminine?)  
    Nouns - Part 2 - (Gender and forming plural nouns)  
  All About Adjectives  
    Adjectives - (Agreement and word order)  
    Adjectives - (Comparative and superlative)  
  All About Pronouns  
    Pronouns - object pronouns (direct / indirect)  
  Adjectives & Pronouns  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (demonstrative)  
    Adjectives and Pronouns (possessive)  
    Adjectives and pronouns (indefinite)  
  All About Adverbs  
    Adverbs - Part 1 - (words ending in -ly in English)  
    Adverbs - Part 2 - (Other forms / making comparisons)  
    An introduction to prepositions and relative pronouns  
    Prepositions - A comprehensive list with examples  
    Conjunctions - linking words  
  Questions & Negatives  
    Questions and negatives (question words)  

Learning Spanish Product Reviews
Website Reviews
Advertise Here
Advertise Here
Which language learning method best suits you?
self study
classroom learning
cultural immersion
interactive software
a mixture of all
Click here to vote
Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
What are prepositions? A look at how prepositions are used in both Spanish and English and at some of the difficulties that are faced by native speakers of English when learning Spanish prepositions.
Looking at word formation and prepositions. How prepositions are used in conjunction with other words such as nouns adjectives and verbs.
Relative pronouns explained. A look at relative pronouns referring to people and things. How relative pronouns are formed and used in both Spanish and English.
Looking specifically at when and how relative pronouns are used after prepositions. A closer look at 'lo que' and when el/la/los/las + que are used without prepositions.
  What you can learn from this lesson
Understanding how prepositions are generally used in conversation to show how people or things relate to each other.
To have a good understanding of how prepositions are used in speech in preparation for further study which concentrates on when and how to use prepositions in specific situations.
Understanding what relative pronouns are and how they are used to better clarify who or what is being talked about or to add information. How the relative pronouns 'que' and 'quien' translate into English.
Understanding how relative pronouns are formed and used differently when preceded by a preposition.
Rocket Spanish
Tell Me More Spanish



The first part of this lesson explains what prepositions are and how they are used in both Spanish and English.


What are prepositions?


In English, prepositions are words like to / for / in / at etc which show how people or things in one part of a sentence relate to the information that is given in other parts of a sentence. In Spanish prepositions usually function in the same way that they do in English.


Ellos fueron a la playa. They went to the beach.
La muñeca es para ti.  The doll is for you.
El más grande en todo el mundo. The biggest in the world.
Me voy a las seis. I’m going at six.


Prepositions in both Spanish and English are usually followed by a noun or pronoun, or sometimes other words which function as a noun. These words are known as the object of the preposition. The preposition and the object of the preposition together make a prepositional clause.


Difficulties faced when learning prepositions


One of the biggest problems facing students when learning Spanish prepositions is knowing which preposition to use and when.


1)      Spanish prepositions are often translated into more than one type of preposition in English.


The Spanish preposition ‘a’ - to / at / on / by / in / from


Deberíamos ir a la granja.  We should go to the farm.
Llegábamos a la granja tarde. We arrived at the farm late.
Llegábamos a tiempo.  We arrived on time.


A complete guide on how the preposition ‘a’ is used in Spanish is given in a separate lesson.


2)      Certain prepositions are used in Spanish where intuitively in English a different preposition might be used.


Había mucha gente en la fiesta. There were a lot of people at the party.
Estoy contento de discutirlo. I’m happy to discuss it.


3)      Prepositions in Spanish are sometimes positioned differently in sentences than they are in English.


¿A que tienda quieres ir? What shop do you want to go to?


Much more about word positioning is explained in part 4 of the lesson in conjunction with relative pronouns.


4)      Sometimes prepositions are used in Spanish but not in English.


¿Le dio la carta a ella? Did you give her the letter?
¿A ti te gusta jugar al ajedrez?  Do you like playing chess?


When learning Spanish prepositions it is best to learn how each preposition is used in different types of sentences instead of just trying to learn what the English equivalents of each preposition are.




The second part of this lesson looks more at how prepositions are formed and used with other words such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs.


1)      Using prepositions before nouns.


Me zambullí dentro el mar.  I dived into the sea.
(Yo) le di una propina a la camarera. I gave a tip to the waitress.


2)      Using prepositions before pronouns.


(Yo) salté en él. I jumped on him.
Están viniendo con nosotros. They’re coming with us.
¿Con que puedo escribir? What can I write with?


The last example shows a preposition being used with a relative pronoun. Much more about relative pronouns and prepositions is explained in parts 3 and 4 of the lesson.


3)      Using prepositions before verbs.


Vosotros necesitáis identificación para entrar.  You (all) need identification to come in.
No hay punto en decir más. There’s no point in saying anything else.


4)      Using prepositions after adjectives.


Ellos estaban muy contentos con el resultado. They were very happy with the result.
Los niños se animan acerca de navidad.  The children get excited about Christmas.


Note: Notice in the second example that the preposition is made up of more than one word. These types of prepositions are looked at in more detail in another lesson on prepositions.


5)      Using prepositions after verbs or to join two verbs together where the second verb is an infinitive verb.


El bebe olía a jabón. The baby smelt of soap.
(Yo) sé que puedo contar con ella. I know I can count on her.
Maria aprendió a arreglar el coche. Maria learnt how to fix the car.
Él acabó de terminar. He just finished.


For much more information on verbs that are usually followed by a preposition take a look at the separate lesson on infinitive verbs.





The third part of this lesson looks at relative pronouns. It describes what they are and how they are used in conversation.


What are relative pronouns?


Relative pronouns in Spanish and English are words that are used to refer to nouns in a way that connects them to more information that is given in a sentence.


El hombre que quería gobernar el mundo.  The man who wanted to rule the world.


In this sentence ‘que’ (who), is being used to connect the noun, hombre (man), to the rest of the information in the sentence about the noun.




que / quien

who (whom)






In Spanish the relative pronoun 'que' can be used to refer to both people and things. The relative pronoun 'quien' can also be used to mean who.


La mujer que / quien ganó. The woman who won.
La pared que se cayó. The wall that fell down.
El pan que ella comió. The bread which she ate.


Note: In English the relative pronoun can often be omitted from a sentence.


El instrumento que (yo) toco.  The instrument that I play. (with)
  The instrument I play. (without)


In Spanish a relative pronoun can NEVER be omitted from a sentence in this way.


Using relative adjectives to identify possession





whose (masculine - singular)


whose (feminine - singular)


whose (masculine - plural)


whose (feminine - plural)


Because ‘cuyo’ (whose), is an adjective it must agree to the noun that it is describing and not the person who has possession of that noun.


El niño cuyas canicas (yo) tengo.  The boy whose marbles I have.
La niña cuyo nombre (yo) olvido. The girl whose name I forget.
Los hombres cuyo barco se hundió.  The men whose ship sank.


Note: The relative adjectives 'cuyo/a/os/as' can also be preceded by a preposition + el / la / los / las in the same way that relative pronouns can. See part 4 of the lesson for more details.



The final part of this lesson looks specifically at how relative pronouns are used with prepositions. It also looks at when el/la/los/las que can be used without a preposition.


Relative pronouns that come directly after a preposition are formed differently to normal relative pronouns.



who (whom)


masc / fem



who (whom)


masc / fem


el que





la que





los que





las que






Relative pronouns that follow after a preposition have to agree to the gender and number of the noun that they are referring to.


La maestra con la que yo estaba hablando.  The teacher that I was talking to.
La maestra con quien yo estaba hablando. The teacher who / that I was talking to.


Las hadas a las que ella gritó.  The fairies that / which she shouted at.
Las hadas a quienes ella gritó The fairies who / that she shouted at.


Los monstruos de los que él soñó.  The monsters that / which he dreamt about.

When using the prepositions ‘a’ or ‘de’ before the singular masculine article ‘el’ they are combined to form ‘al’ and del.


El concierto al que (yo) fui.  The concert that I went to.
El plato del que el comió. The plate from which he ate.


Note: In most of the above examples you can see that in English the preposition comes at the end of the sentence. Prepositions in Spanish can NEVER come at the end of a sentence.


Using ‘lo que


lo que can also be used in the same way as normal relative pronouns to mean what or which in English. This form should be used when:


1)      The preceding words are verbs or other pronouns that refer to something that is not actually stated.

2)      The relative pronoun relates to the whole part of the sentence that precedes it.


(Yo) escuché lo que él dijo a ella. I heard what he said to her.
Todos se salieron al mismo tiempo, lo que fue un problema. Everyone left at the same time, which was a problem.


Using el/la/los/las que to mean the one / ones or those


el / la que

the one who

the one that

the one which

los / las que

the ones who

the ones that

the ones which

los / las que

those who

those that

those which


El que robó mi reloj.  The one who/that/which stole my watch.
Este libro es el que me gusta más. This book is the one that / which I like most.
Los que digan no están mintiendo. Those who/that/which say no are lying.


That concludes this lesson on an introduction to prepositions and relative pronouns. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

An Introduction to Prepositions and Relative Pronouns
Recent Blog Posts