No me importa por qué, porque el porqué no va a cambiar las cosas. (I don’t care why, because the why is not going to change things.)
Whyyyy? As you see, we have this really important porque word in Spanish, which has four different spellings and means something different for each of the spellings.
Which one means what and when do you use them?
Hi, I’m Maura from Spring Spanish, and ¡aprendamos la diferencia ahora mismo! (let’s learn the difference right now!)
1. The four types of “why” in Spanish
Our first example at the beginning of this video includes three of these: No me importa por qué, porque el porqué no va a cambiar las cosas. (I don’t care why, because the why is not going to change things.)
But there’s yet another one: por que without the accent. Notice how this is what creates the four versions, the accent. We have either both words together or separate:
- por que
And then the same plus an accent:
- por qué
Vamos a repasar algunos chunks para ayudarte a entender dónde está la diferencia, pero antes, me disculpo en nombre del español por hacer esto. (Let’s go through some chunks to help you understand where the difference lies, but before, I apologize in the name of Spanish for doing this.)
I promise there’s a ton of native speakers that would fail to understand this. Personally, I do frown upon that. Aunque tengo que admitir que me entrenaron para eso en la universidad. (Although I have to admit I was trained for that in college.)
Let’s start with the most popular couple:
a. Porque (because)
- Se canceló la reunión porque se fue la luz. (The meeting was canceled because the power went out.)
- Llegaron tarde porque no pusieron alarma. (They were late because they did not set an alarm.)
- No quiero ir porque no me da la gana. (I don’t want to go because I don’t feel like it.)
Porque (because) as you can see, is what you’d use to establish the reason for something to be. Add this reason right after, like in: Se canceló la reunión porque se fue la luz. (The meeting was canceled because the power went out.)
b. Por qué (why)
- ¿Por qué estás gritando? (Why are you shouting?)
- No entiendo por qué se molestaron. (I don’t understand why they got upset.)
- ¡Por qué sitios más interesantes hemos pasado hoy! (What interesting places we’ve been to today!)
Por qué (why) is the actual question. Whether you use it as a direct question: ¿Por qué estás gritando? (Why are you shouting?) Or an indirect one: No entiendo por qué se molestaron. (I don’t understand why they got upset.) You could also use this for exclamation, as in: ¡Por qué sitios más interesantes hemos pasado hoy! (What interesting places we’ve been to today!) But that is so uncommon, we don’t even have to talk about that.
Porque no me da la gana (because I don’t feel like it) is a very useful chunk and, I believe, the first rude chunk I’ve shared with you. It is well deserving of a chunk alert, because though I don’t want you to be rude, I do want you to feel free in Spanish. Y, a veces, hay que saber poner límites con firmeza. (And, sometimes, it is necessary to know how to firmly set boundaries.)
That’s what this does. You’re essentially saying that you do not need a reason for whatever is being questioned.
So, you say:
- Porque no me da la gana, for negatives, and
- Porque me da la gana, for affirmations.
It means: Lo hago o no lo hago simplemente porque quiero. (I do it or don’t do it simply because I want to.) No reason needed.
Now, let’s move on to our less popular couple:
c. El porqué (the why)
- Da igual, el porqué es irrelevante en esta situación. (Anyway, the why is irrelevant in this situation.)
- Sus porqués siempre son absurdos. (Their why’s are always absurd.)
- Por favor, explícame el porqué de tu actitud. (Please, explain to me the why of your attitude.)
This “porqué” is only used as a thing, and therefore, you can usually find an “el” (the), “los” (the), “su” (his or her)before it. Just like you would say “el vaso” (the glass), you can say “el porqué” (the why). Also notice that, as a thing, it has a plural form: porqués (why’s).
d. Por que (for that)
- Optaron por que mejor compraban una computadora nueva. (They opted to buy a new computer instead.)
- ¿Estás contenta por que empecemos a organizar el viaje? (Are you happy for us to start organizing the trip?)
- Habló de su preocupación por que la inflación siguiera subiendo. (She spoke of her concern that inflation would continue to rise.)
Aquí, lo importante es que no estamos dando una razón, un por qué, para nada. (Here, the important thing is that we’re not giving a reason, a why, for anything.) We’re adding more information after the preposition “por” that is not a reason or a why. In the example: Optaron por que mejor compraban una computadora nueva. (They opted to buy a new computer instead.) what comes after por que is just extra information. This is key because if we were actually giving a reason, we wouldn’t use this por que (for that).
2. The difference in pronunciation
Guys, stick till the end if you want to get some tricks to help you remember all of this crazy porqués (why’s) even after you’re done with the video.
Muy bien, ahora, la mayor y más notable diferencia entre estas palabras será siempre la ortografía. (All right, now, the biggest and most noticeable difference between these words will always be the spelling.) That being said, there are slight differences in pronunciation that we should cover, so you know everything there’s to know about this.
Afortunadamente (Luckily), these differences rely on the spelling a hundred percent, so if you know either the spelling or the pronunciation, you could possibly infer the other one. Let’s do this with a table, so it’s easier to follow:
|Porque (because)||Me gustan los gatos porque tienen mucha personalidad. |
(I like cats because they have a lot of personality.)
|Here there’s a slight emphasis at the beginning, and you do say it fluidly, as it is one word: porque.|
|Por qué (why)||¿Por qué no me avisaste? (Why didn’t you let me know?)||The accent does mean you emphasize the “qué” and you separate the sounds a bit: ¿por qué?|
|El porqué (the why)||Ese porqué no es suficiente. |
(That why isn’t enough.)
|Here you emphasize the “qué” again, but you do not separate the sounds: el porqué.|
|Por que (for that)||Estoy ansiosa por que terminemos el proyecto a tiempo. |
(I am anxious about us finishing the project on time.)
|Lastly, you do emphasize the “por” a bit, but you do not separate the sounds: por que. So “porque” and “por que” have basically the same pronunciation.|
3. Tips to remember the differences
First of all, remember that there’s a popular couple: porque (because) and ¿por qué? (why?). And an unpopular one: elporqué (the why) and por que (for that). This does mean the first two are used significantly more than the second two.
Ahora, aprende estos chunks junto con el sentimiento y recuerda los dos más populares para siempre: (Now, learn these chunks along with the feeling and remember the most popular two forever:)
All you have to do is remember the feeling of questioning of the first one and the feeling of answering of the second one. Así que, conecta con tu actor interior y practica estos dos con intención. (So, connect with your inner actor and practice these 2 with intention.)
- For “el porqué” (the why) your trick is something I’ve been doing the whole time. ¿Puedes ver lo que es? (Can you see what it is?)
The article “el” (the). If there’s a little word like this: el (the), or su (his or her), or los (the) in front of it, then it is a thing, and it’s written together with an accent.
- With “por que” (for that). Just know that this is the weird sister, and you’d only use it when the other ones, which are easier to remember and more common, don’t make sense.
Now, can you tell me which one fills in the blank?
- No fuimos al parque ________ estaba lloviendo. (We did not go to the park because it was raining.)
- ¿_________ compraste tanta comida? (Why did you buy so much food?)
As you have learned, porque is an important word to ask questions. Pero hay muchas más palabras y formas de hacer preguntas en español. (But there are many more words and ways to ask questions in Spanish.) It’s really important for you to know how to properly ask questions in Spanish so that you can hold good conversations. So, let’s have Spring Spanish teacher Mariana explain how we do it here!