How to use cual in Spanish is a question of great interest to our students at However, we must warn our readers that today we are not going to discuss the differences between cuál and qué. These interrogative pronouns are written with a tilde. However, cual, without graphic accent, is a relative pronoun that introduces adjective subordinate clauses.

Adjective subordinate clauses qualify or complement the meaning of a preceding word, called the antecedent.

El curso que necesitas para aprobar el examen DELE está en

The proposition in bold specifies which course we are talking about and the pronoun that replaces the antecedent curso.

There are a lot of relative pronouns: que, cual, quien, cuyo, cuyo, donde, como, cuando… Today we are going to learn exclusively how to use cual in Spanish. To do so, we are going to learn about different characteristics that limit their use.



How to use cual in Spanish: always with article

When cual is used as a relative pronoun, it is always preceded by a definite article (el, la, los, las). This is very useful, since we can know the gender of the antecedent and thus avoid any confusion:

La clase de ayer, la cual fue muy divertida, duró treinta minutos.

Mis estudiantes, los cuales tienen un nivel avanzado, dominan el subjuntivo.

Cual in restrictive relative clauses

Adjective subordinate clauses can be of two types: restrictive and non-restrictive.

Restrictive ones offer extra information about the antecedent; we could eliminate that proposition and the sentence would keep its meaning. These types of clauses are always enclosed in commas. In relation to how to use cual in Spanish in restrictive sentences, we can say that it is always possible to use it.

Miguel de Cervantes, el cual escribió el Quijote, era manco.

This does not mean that its usage is obligatory. It could also be replaced by the pronouns que or quien.

Cual in non-restrictive relative clauses

On the other hand, non-restrictive clauses select an element from a group of the same class. For this reason, they cannot be eliminated and are not written between commas. Unfortunately, we cannot use the pronoun cual with the same freedom as in restrictive sentences. If we opt for this pronoun in specifying sentences, it must be preceded by a preposition.

El tiempo verbal con el cual tengo más problemas es el imperfecto.

In this example we can also replace it with the pronoun que.

How to use cual in Spanish in an obligatory way

If our readers are wondering how to use cual in Spanish, but in an obligatory and not optional way, we must say that there are two possible situations.

When there is no conjugated verb in the subordinate proposition

It is possible that in the adjective subordinate clause there is only one verb in non-personal, non-conjugated form: infinitives, gerunds and participles. If this is the case, we must use the pronoun cual.

Vamos a empezar el examen, terminado el cual podrás irte a casa.

El subjuntivo es difícil, dominando el cual tendrás un nivel avanzado.

In restrictive clauses preceded by a quantifier

If we use a quantifier (algunos, nada, todo…) in front of the relative pronoun in restrictive clauses, it is obligatory to use cual.

He cometido algunos errores en el examen, ninguno de los cuales es grave.

We hope we have helped our readers to solve the doubts about how to use cual in Spanish in adjective subordinate clauses. If you still have any questions or would like to practice this topic in a class with a specialized teacher, reserve it here. Would you like to enjoy a trial class beforehand? Of course; we will be happy to help you.