What is the meaning of "lo que"?

What is the meaning of "lo que"?


I have been seeing "lo que" quite often when I am reading and can only assume it is an idiom, otherwise it makes no sense.

When I put it into the translator, google says it is an adverb that means "as" or a pronoun that means "whatever" or "whatsoever".

Sometimes this works for me.

Is this correct? Are there any other meanings for "lo que"?


updated JUL 7, 2017
posted by john20

3 Answers


Hi john20

remember that pronouns are words that refer to a noun. Relative pronouns are called "relative" because they are "related" to a noun that has previously been stated.

The relative pronoun "el que" (and its related forms) is used to refer to both people and things. Note that there are four forms to accomodate singular and plural, masculine and feminine: el que, la que, los que, las que.

Mi tía, la que es profesora, viene a visitarme hoy día. My aunt, the one who is a professor, is coming to visit me today.

Las mesas, las que son de plástico, son baratas. The tables, the ones that are made of plastic, are cheap.

Mi tío, el que es taxista, llegará pronto. My uncle, the one who is a taxi driver, will arrive soon.

Mis pantalones, los que son viejos, son muy cómodos. My pants, the ones that are old, are very comfortable.

Another set of relative pronouns can be used in place of el que, la que, los que, and las que:

el cual la cual los cuales las cuales

These are not commonly used in everyday conversation, and are generally reserved for written Spanish or formal oratory.

When the relative pronoun refers to an abstract idea, use "lo que."

Lo que quieres no existe.- That which you want does not exist.

No comprendo lo que ocurre. - I do not understand that which is happening.

updated SEP 1, 2010
posted by megapyme
Nice job! - Delores--Lindsey, MAY 16, 2010
I agree. - john20, MAY 17, 2010

As I understand it, it means "what". "That which" sounds too formal for everyday language.

No sé lo que quieres. I don't know what you want.

Eso es lo que vamos a hacer. That is what we are going to do.

No me gusta lo que me dijiste. I don't like what you said to me.

updated MAY 17, 2010
edited by TheSilentHero
posted by TheSilentHero
Thanks SilentHero. - john20, MAY 17, 2010
No problemo! - TheSilentHero, MAY 17, 2010

"Lo que," when I think about it, translates as 3 different things:

Lo que = that which

Lo que = what

Lo que = the thing that

I have found that substituting "the thing that" for "lo que" when translating ALWAYS works; even if it may sound weird, it still makes sense.

"No sé lo que hice." I don't know that which I did. I don't know what I did. I don't know the thing that I did.

However, mostly when we are speaking English, we will almost always use "what." As someone has already said, "that which" sounds too formal, but it still works.

Why do I like "lo que" translated as "the thing that" better? First, it's basically translated word-for-word since "lo" basically means "the thing." Second, when you say "Thank you for everything that you've done," you would use "lo que" and not "que." This is because there is no Spanish equivalent of "everything." "Todo" = "all." So it would say "for all the things that you've done." (I know it's plural, but you still use "lo que.")

I hope I helped!

updated JUL 7, 2017
posted by nospocnephets
Thanks, that's the best and simplest explanation that I've found. And this has been bugging me for a while! - alistairbaillie, MAY 22, 2014
You're still helping us 3 years later. - unbelievable, OCT 17, 2014
I can think of a very popular colloquialism where "the thing that" is really not going to work- "Lo que la cogida" does not equal "the thing that the f**k" - dakota923, SEP 24, 2016
Yes, still helping! That is the best explanation I have seen as well. thank you! - Beth0007, JUL 7, 2017
SpanishDict is the world's most popular Spanish-English dictionary, translation, and learning website.