August 3, 2020

Porque o Por Qué

Whether you are a native speaker or a student of Spanish, it is very likely that you have asked yourself the following question, especially when writing: Is it porque or por qué?

Well, are they the same? What is the difference?

We can say that porque is a causal conjunction, which means that we use it when explaining the reason, motive or cause of something. It is usually the answer to the question "por qué...?"

Some examples could be:

No voy a ir a la oficina porque me siento mal.

Suspendieron las clases porque está nevando.

Llegué tarde a la reunión porque me quedé dormido.

In all these cases “porque ” introduces a subordinate clause, which means that there must be a complete idea behind “porque ”. "... porque me siento mal", "porque está nevando", "porque me quedé dormido" are all complete ideas that explain the reason why something happens or happened. The only cases where there is no need to express a complete idea is by saying "porque sí" or "porque no."

Likewise, we can only use the subordinate clause as an answer to "Por qué":

--¿Por qué no vas a venir a la oficina?

--Porque me siento mal.  

--¿Por qué suspendieron las clases?

--Porque está nevando.  

--¿Por qué llegaste tarde a la reunión?

--Porque me quedé dormido.  

As is already evident, we use Por qué as a question, to ask the reason, motive or cause of something. It is important to remember that you should always carry the accent because it is a question.

As examples we have:

--¿Por qué no desayunaste esta mañana?

--Porque no tuve tiempo.  

--¿Por qué llora Sofía?

--Porque vio una película muy triste.  

--¿Por qué estás despierto tan tarde?

--Porque tengo que terminar mi tarea de la universidad.  

We can also use "Por qué" as an indirect question or exclamation.

No entiendo por qué reprobé el examen.

Me pregunto por qué el jefe no estaba en su oficina.

¡Por qué cosas hemos pasado!

Indirect questions do not have question marks but always have an accent mark. Exclamations with "por qué" are accompanied by exclamation marks. These are more common to find in books, especially when it comes to old stories. They are not widely used in common speech.

Besides "porque" and "por qué", there are two other less common variations: "porqué" and "por que".

Porqué nnlike the previous ones, is a noun. It is the synonym of words like "motive", "reason" or "cause". It is usually preceded by an article and can be both singular and plural.

Explícame el porqué de tus acciones.

Dame al menos un porqué.

Ya no me interesan tus porqués.

This construction is not common, not even among native speakers. It can be found in very old stories, but most of the time it tends to be replaced by the word "motive" or "reason."

Explícame el motivo de tus acciones.

Dame al menos una razón.

Ya no me interesan tus motivos.

It is advisable to use these because they are common.

Por que puede usarse en dos casos un poco distintos.

In the first case we find the combination of certain verbs, nouns or adjectives that precede the preposition "por" and the conjunction "que" introducing a subordinate sentence in the subjunctive.

El profesor optó por que presentaran el examen al día siguiente.

Lucía estaba desesperada por que le pagaran la quincena.

Los vecinos demostraron su preocupación por que se pudieran meter a robar. 

In the other case, we use the preposition “por” with the relative pronoun “que”. It is quite common to place a definite article (el, la, los, las) before "que".

Este es el sueño por (el) que luché todos estos años.

No entiendo el motivo por (el) que discuten tanto.

Hay varias razones por (las) que estamos preocupados.

Although it is more common to use constructions (by which, by which, by which and by which).

Este es el sueño por el cual luché todos estos años.

No entiendo el motivo por el cual discuten tanto.

Hay varias razones por las cuales estamos preocupados.

Despite so many possible combinations, in the end, “porque” and “por qué” are the most common and, therefore, they are the most important to remember and know how to use. "Porque" and "por qué" tend to be more formal records found in very ancient writing or very advanced speech. They can be considered archaic and are not very popular in the common speech of the people. In most cases, it is better to use any of the other alternatives that we presented in this article.

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About the author 

Jaimi Saunders

J’aimi has worked in the education industry for over 20 years, gaining experience in teaching, mentoring, and coaching. As a seasoned educator he is passionate about advancing teaching excellence and student motivation. In addition to working in the education industry, he is also involved in continuing his personal education and improvement. Outside of the office, J’aimi enjoys, antique vehicles, motorcycles, and travelling to new destinations.

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