In Spanish conversation you’re sure to hear people say porque in a bunch of contexts, but did you realize we actually have four distinct porque terms which each have their own use and meaning?
Although this may sound complicated at first, they’re actually all different enough to keep straight. Let’s take a look at how to easily differentiate between porque vs por que vs porqué vs por qué.
Por qué or porque or por que or porqué?
Yes, these are all very different! The meaning changes when written as one word or two, and with or without the accent, so pay particular attention to these differences. Now let’s start off by distinguishing between all four of our porque words!
To begin with, let’s see how each of these four words differs when they’re spoken. Although they appear similar, there are some clear differences in spoken emphasis between them.
Por qué and porqué sound the same, with a clear emphasis on the second syllable as noted by the accent.
Porque has a fairly neutral emphasis between the syllables, though if anything the emphasis falls at the beginning.
Por que has its emphasis on the first word, with a discernible break between the two words.
Along with the slight differences in pronunciation, there are clear differences in meaning between the four porque words. We’ll explain each in detail over the next sections, but for now here’s a quick chart showing the meaning of each.
Por qué in Spanish: Why
Por qué is the Spanish question word for our English word why. We use it to ask questions, and to inquire about reasons or motives.
Although technically composed of two words, por qué should always be considered as a single word when used as why. And remember that the accent over the final é of por qué is obligatory.
Since it’s a question word, you’ll often see por qué directly preceded by the inverted question mark (¿). Let’s take a look at a few examples of por qué in Spanish:
- ¿Por qué no preguntaste antes? – Why didn’t you ask earlier?
- ¿Por qué llegas tan tarde siempre? – Why are you always so late?
Por qué can also be used in indirect questions:
- Me pregunto por qué decidieron venir, después de escuchar lo que pasó. – I wonder why they decided to come, after hearing what happened.
- 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.
Porque in Spanish: Because
In contrast to the question word por qué, porque is used to offer answers. Porque is equivalent to the English word because, used to explain motives or reasons. Similar expressions in Spanish include ya que or dado que.
When writing because in Spanish, be sure to write porque as a single word with no accents.
Let’s see a few examples where you’ll probably recognize how porque is so similar to because:
- Marta no pudo venir porque era muy lejos para ella. – Martha could not come because it was too far for her.
- Yo estaba sucio porque estaba limpiando el ático. – I was dirty because I was cleaning the attic.
- No te llamé ni te contesté porque estaba ocupado trabajando. – I didn’t call or answer you because I was busy working.
- No hablamos mucho porque era tarde y tenía que irme. – We didn’t talk too much because it was late and I had to leave.
Por qué and Porque: For Questions and Answers
As we’ve just seen, por qué and porque have very different uses, though they’re also clearly related. Por qué can be used to ask a question, while porque can be used to answer. Let’s see some examples using both por qué and porque together:
- ¿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 already late.
- ¿Por qué estás tan feliz? Porque mañana me voy a casar. – Why are you so happy? Because I’m going to get married tomorrow.
- ¿Por qué no vienes a mi casa? Porque estoy trabajando. – Why are you not coming to my house? Because I’m working.
Now that we’ve covered por qué and porque, let’s learn about the other two: porqué and por que.
El Porqué: A Reason
Ok, so this one might seem pretty similar to por qué, but the vital difference here is that porqué is a noun. We use el porqué to refer to the reason, or even the why. The best English translation depends on the context.
Be sure to write this porqué as one word with the final accent.
- Simplemente no sabemos el porqué detrás de sus acciones. – We simply don’t know the reason behind his actions.
- Nunca me dijiste el porqué cuando te fuiste. – You never told me why when you left.
- Necesito que me expliques el porqué de todo eso. – I need you to explain the reason behind all of that.
Por que: Two Words
The fourth variation of porque in Spanish is simply when we see the words por and que used in succession. In contrast to por qué, which is effectively one word meaning why, por que is two words. In this case there is never an accent on the que!
There are actually two circumstances when we’ll come across por que, each with their own explanations. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Por que: For which, Whereby
This use of por que is used to describe a cause or a reason, connecting two ideas within a sentence. Depending on the context, por que can have various translations including for which, which is why, whereby, or even why. Let’s take a look at some examples to understand:
- The luncheon for which we bought the food will take place outside. – El almuerzo por que compramos la comida tendrá lugar fuera.
- The only option whereby the rookie will play is if the star is injured. – La única opción por que jugará el novato es si la estrella se lesiona.
- The reasons why they fought seemed ridiculous to me. – Los motivos por que pelean me parecían ridículos.
- That is the reason why I went home so early. – Esa es la razón por que me fui a casa tan temprano.
In this use of por que, there are two other constructions which are essentially interchangeable and have the exact same meaning: por el cual and por el que. Or when referring to a feminine word, these become por la cual and por la que. Let’s try all three in a sentence:
- That is exactly the reason why I wanted you to call me. – Esa es exactamente la razón por que quería que me llamaras. – Esa es exactamente la razón por la que quería que me llamaras. – Esa es exactamente la razón por la cual quería que me llamaras.
Por que: With por verbs
In this final instance where we observe por que, we should really just consider that we’re seeing que on its own after a verb whose use takes por. In these cases we might try to literally translate the que as that, though depending on the verb we’ll rather need to translate por que together to match the context. Let’s see a few verbs which use por in order to understand:
|To be worried about, To care about
|To fight for
|To be interested in, To take an interest in
|To make sure of
|To opt for
|Estar ansioso por
|To be anxious about
|To advocate for
- Ella se preocupa por que estés bien. – She cares about your being ok.
- Lucho por que haya paz en el mundo. – I fight so that there is peace in the world.
- El doctor debía velar por que sus pacientes se recuperaran antes de salir del hospital. – The doctor had to make sure that his patients recovered before leaving the hospital.
- Mis padres optan por que estudie derecho. – My parents opt for me to study law.
- Debido a las lesiones de los jugadores, el entrenador optó por que se reprogramara el juego. – Due to the injuries of the players, the coach opted for the game to be postponed.
- La profesora aboga por que los alumnos no lleven deberes a casa. – The teacher advocates for the students to not take schoolwork home.
¿Entiendes el porqué por que usamos cada forma de porque? ¡Sí! ¿Por qué? ¡Porque los usamos todos en contextos diferentes! – Do you understand the reason for which we use each form of porque? Yes! Why? Because we use them all in different contexts!
Three of the Spanish porque words are clear translations of our English why, because, and the reason, while por que can become for which or a handful of other prepositions depending on the context. Now you’re well on your way to always using the right porque in Spanish!