One of the most difficult parts of learning Spanish is when words that sound the same have different meanings, and this is definitely true for porque vs por que.
This particular problem is one of the more difficult aspects of the Spanish language, but after today’s article, you’ll be thinking “¿por qué pensaba que era tan difícil?”
Why did I think it was so difficult?
The truth is, though, that native speakers also have some problems with this, sometimes. So the good news is that you’re not alone in the struggle. And the even better news is that there are only four different ways to use por que.
And today you’re going to master all four, so let’s get started!
The 4 Ways to Write Porque
Like we mentioned, there are only four uses of the words por que. Here is a quick list before diving into the details:
If you’re not a Spanish grammar buff, that’s ok! We’ll go over each of these in detail.
1. Porque: Because
The easiest one to learn is the word porque as a conjunction meaning “because”. The English translation is the best way to know the difference between porque vs por que in this context.
You use porque when you want to explain or give more explanation to something. Let’s look at some examples:
- ¿Por qué te vas al parque? Porque tengo tiempo libre. – Why are you leaving for the park? Because I have some free time.
- Me gusta hacer ejercicio porque es muy sano. – I like to workout because it’s very healthy.
- La gramática es difícil porque hay muchas normas. – Grammar is difficult because there are a lot of rules
As you can see, you can use porque both at the beginning and in the middle of the sentence. You can use it to answer a question or to add extra information to your sentence.
So look at that, it’s exactly the same as English! Not so difficult, is it?
Now let’s look at por qué vs porque
2. ¿Por Qué?: Why?
Numbers 1 and 2 are the most commonly used forms and they are what cause the most confusion in the world of por qué vs porque.
Por qué is an interrogative and should always have an accent mark in written Spanish. Remember, as you learn Spanish, you should also be learning how to read and write, so por qué and porque is a great place to start practicing.
Por qué are two separate words that together are used to ask either indirect questions or direct questions. Let’s look at some examples to understand it better:
- ¿Por qué lo hiciste? – Why did you do that?
- Yo sé por qué lo hizo. – I know why he did that
- ¿Por qué es tan difícil? – Why is it so difficult?
- Me preguntó por qué era tan complicado. – He asked me why it was so complicated.
So as you can see, you can write por qué both when you are directly asking a question (and need to use the ¿? symbols) and when you are asking an indirect question within the sentence.
The second usage of por qué is what causes the most problems for people. Luckily for English speakers, you can try translating it to understand which you should use. For example, let’s look at the last one again.
- Me preguntó por qué era tan complicado. – He asked me why it was so complicated
- Me preguntó porque era tan complicado. – He asked me because it was so complicated
So here, the meaning difference between por qué / porque is very clear when translating it to English. Although you should try not to always rely on translations, it can be a good tool in the beginning when you’re learning languages.
Finally, there is a difference between por qué and the preposition por at times. You can use ¿por? as a way to ask a question quickly. For example:
- “Mañana tengo que levantarme pronto” “¿Ah sí? ¿Por?” – “Tomorrow I have to get up early.” “Oh yeah? Why?”
This is typically only used in conversations or text messages, though. But it’s good to recognize the differences between por qué vs por.
3. El porqué: The reason
The next one also seems strange to English learners when they first see it. Porqué as one word and with an accent mark?
El porqué is a noun that means “the reason”. It’s often used as “el porqué de …” You would use this in situations where you need to talk about the explanation for something. For example:
- Todo tiene un porqué. – Everything has a reason
- No entiendo el porqué del crimen. – I don’t understand the reasoning/motivation for the crime
- No siempre hay un porqué. – There’s not always a reason.
El porqué can also be translated as “the why”, but that doesn’t always sound very good in English.
So now you may be asking yourself, “When do I use por qué / por que / porqué?”. That’s a fair question! The answer is that it all depends on the grammar.
Porque is a conjunction, meaning it connects two sentences together. Whereas porqué is a noun and can be either the subject or the object of the sentence. Here’s an easy example to understand porque vs por que and porqué:
- Cometió el crimen porque está loco. – He committed the crime because he’s crazy
- No entiendo el porqué del crimen. – I don’t understand the reason for the crime
- No entiendo por qué lo hizo. – I don’t understand why he did it.
That should make it easier to see the difference between por qué and porque and porqué.
4. Por que: For which
The last way to use the four porques, you’re already there! Porque vs Por que can be a bit difficult for people and, to be fair, the last of the four porques is certainly the most complicated one.
It’s used when you combine the preposition que with the relative pronoun que.
In general terms, it means “for which”. This means that por que and porqué are completely different, for example. Before heading into too much detail, let’s look at some examples:
- Este es el motivo por que yo no quería venir. – This is the reason why / for which I didn’t want to come
- Esta es la razón por que me preocupo. – This is the reason why / for which I worry.
This one tends to be the most difficult and the least common. Many times native speakers even prefer using another relative pronoun, for example:
- Este es el motivo por el cual yo no quería venir.
- Esta es la razón por la que me preocupo.
So if you’re ever doubting yourself over which of the different porques you should use, try swapping it out for different synonyms.
Many times knowing which por que is necessary is made easier if you know if you’re able to use a different word.
Verb + Por
Finally, there are some cases that can be confusing for English learners when a verb that needs the word por is followed by que.
Just like in English, there are some verbs that are always followed by a preposition. These types of situations are called collocations. In English, you have some verbs like:
- Depends on
- Think of
- Prefer to
This is different from a phrasal verb like “Bring up, bring along, bring about, etc.”
Just like in English, in Spanish, some verbs need to have a preposition go hand-in-hand with them. And sometimes that preposition is por.
The confusion comes when the verb + por is followed by que. So you’ll have to pay attention and remember that verb + por is separate from que, rather than seeing it as verb + por que.
Here are some examples:
- Es importante luchar por que haya libertad. – It’s important to fight so there is freedom.
- No hay que preocuparse por que me pase algo. – You shouldn’t worry that something might happen to me.
Lucky for you, there are many opportunities for something like this to pop up and confuse you, but it is good to keep it in mind just in case!
¿Por qué es tan fácil?
You made it through all four porques without any trouble! Por qué / porque / por que / porqué can seem pretty daunting at first, but the truth is it’s not so complicated!
Now that you’ve mastered these four words, you’ll be able to add them now to your Spanish Vocabulary, and help out your Spanish-speaking friends that always have trouble with accent marks!
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