Por qué vs. Porque: Make the 4 Spanish “Porques” as Clear as Day

A tiny thing, like a space or an accent mark, can change the meaning of a sentence completely.

In fact, you could go from single to taken with just one space!

Don’t believe me? Check out these two sentences: Can you see the difference in meaning?

Pedro: Por ti, lo hago todo porque me quieres.

Antonio: Por ti, lo hago todo por que me quieras.

If you’re stumped on who’s single, keep on reading and learn about the four Spanish porques to find out!

Contents

The Four Spanish PorquesPor qué, porque, por que, porqué

The four porques are a part of the language where Spanish learners could actually know more than natives! Native speakers can obviously pronounce the four words perfectly, but when it comes to writing them, there are many who have no idea what the difference is between por qué, porque, por que and porqué.

So don’t feel like you’re alone in this; it’s a topic that native Spanish speakers should also start mastering in order to be grammatically correct when speaking. Paradoxical, isn’t it?

Let’s get started looking at the main differences between these four wicked words, explained as clearly as possible. I’ve also added a ton of examples so that you can learn these words in context.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so the more you use them, the better!

Don’t ask me por qué, porque I won’t give you my porqués! :)

Por qué vs. Porque: Make the 4 Spanish “Porques” as Clear as Day

1. ¿Por qué? (Why?): Asking Questions in Spanish

Por qué is, together with porque, one of the most often used of the four porques. It means “why,” and it’s very easy to use because it works exactly the same as in English. When you want to ask why, write por qué. Notice that it’s made of two separated words with an accent mark over the e.

Take a look at the following examples:

           ¿Por qué has venido? (Why have you come?)

           ¿Por qué no comes pizza? (Why don’t you eat pizza?)

           ¿Por qué te vas? (Why are you leaving?)

As a question word, it can also be used in indirect questions:

           No sé por qué has venido. (I don’t know why you have come.)

           Me pregunto por qué no comes pizza. (I wonder why you don’t eat pizza.)

           Quiero saber por qué te vas. (I want to know why you are leaving.)

Summing up, every time you want to ask why, whether it’s directly or indirectly, use por qué.

           ¿Por qué estás estudiando español? (Why are you learning Spanish?).

           Me encantaría saber por qué estás estudiando español. (I would love to know why you are learning Spanish.)

2. Porque (Because): Giving Answers in Spanish

In English, when you ask a question using “why,” you’ll probably obtain a spoken answer beginning with “because.” This is also true of Spanish, but our word for “because” is actually another member of the “porque family.” In this case, we will translate “because” as porque, and write it as one word without an accent mark. Use this word only when you are giving your reasons:

¿Por qué has venido? Porque tengo tiempo libre.
(Why have you come? Because I have some free time.)

¿Por qué no comes pizza? Porque no tengo hambre.
(Why don’t you eat pizza?) Because I am not hungry.

¿Por qué te vas? Porque ya es muy tarde.
(Why are you leaving? Because it is too late already.)

As in English, you will find porque when reporting events as well:

Me dijo que no vendría porque no tenía tiempo.
(He told me he would not come because he didn’t have time.)

Mi hermana me contó que volvió porque se había olvidado la tarjeta de crédito.
(My sister told me she came back because she had forgotten her credit card.)

Ella dice que no come porque no tiene hambre.
(She says she is not eating because she is not hungry.)

So far we have seen two words that work in the same way both in Spanish and in English. No drama! But of course, Spanish needs to have its moments of weirdness.

There are two additional words in Spanish formed by using the same combination of por and que, which while describing a very similar notion in English, are translated and used differently.

3. El porqué (The Reason): A Fun Spanish Noun

Who could have imagined you can make a noun out of por and que? And still, that’s the truth.

When you write them together and add an accent mark over the e, you will have el porqué, which is normally translated as “the reason,” or less commonly as “why” (used as a noun).

Porqué can be used with an article, have plural form (as in English “whys” and “wherefores”), be modified by adjectives, etc. See this fascinating noun in action:

No entiendo el porqué de tu decisión.
(I don’t understand the reason behind your decision.)

Me preguntó los porqués de mi decisión.
(He asked about the whys (the reasons/the causes) for my decision.)

Un gran porqué se nos presenta.
(A strong reason presents itself.)

Finally, here you have other useful expressions with porqué that might come in handy:

           Todo tiene un porqué. (Everything has a reason.)

           Sin un porqué. (Without any reason.)

           El porqué de todo. (The reason for everything.)

4. Por que (For Which): Two Specific Uses

Por que (two words without an accent mark) is definitely the most difficult and the less commonly used of the four porques. It can be translated as “for which,” but there are going to be times when you will have to translate it as “why” or even “(so) that.”

It is present only in two very specific situations, so if you bear in mind the following two rules, you will have no problem with it:

1. Write por que when you have a preposition (por) and a relative pronoun (que).

In these cases, you will be able to translate it as “for which,” and you’ll be able to change it in Spanish for por el/la que or por el/la cual:

Esa es la razón por que (por la que / por la cual) vine.
(That is the reason for which (why) I came.)

Este es el motivo por que (por el que / por el cual) no llamé.
(This is the reason for which (why) I didn’t call.)

2. Write por que when a phrasal verb using por is followed by que.

Examples of Spanish phrasal verbs that use por can be optar por (to opt for, decide), preocuparse por (to worry about, to take care of), luchar por (to fight for), decidirse por (to opt for, decide), etc. Here are some examples:

           Opté por que no vinieras. (I decided that you wouldn’t come.)

           Me preocupo por que no te pase nada. (I take care so that nothing happens to you.)

           Lucho por que haya paz en el mundo. (I fight so that there is peace in the world.)

           Hice lo que pude por que no llegáramos tarde. (I did what I could so that we wouldn’t be late).

 

As you can see, por que is quite puzzling and it tends to be wrongly used even by native Spanish speakers!

So don’t worry if you can’t master it at once. Start with the easy ones—por qué and porque—then slowly start practicing with porqué, and finally confront por que. It will be a piece of cake after the whole process!

It can help to see this kind of grammar used in context by watching authentic videos in Spanish. You can find videos on YouTube that are likely to contain variations of porque. The language learning program FluentU also houses a collection of videos, and they come with interactive captions that explain vocabulary in context. Through the captions, you can confidently know which porque is being used and how it functions.

With constant exposure, you’ll quickly become familiar with these tricky words and their mannerisms!

By the way, do you know which of our two friends is the single one now? I’ll leave you with their opening words, so you can take another look at what they said. Understanding the meaning will feel fulfilling, and prove that you’ve understood the concepts from this post!

Pedro: Por ti, lo hago todo porque me quieres.

Antonio: Por ti, lo hago todo por que me quieras.

Hope you have a chance to check it out!


Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.

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