QUE    and    LO QUE


I would translate most of the time


“lo que” as “what”   Lo que se usa para referirse a ideas, acciones o conceptos. Nunca se refiere a sustantivos. 

                                              is used to refer to ideas, actions or concepts. Never refer to nouns




“que”   as “that”      puede ser pronombre cuando se refiere a personas y/o a cosas, determinante o adverbio.

                                  can be pronoun when referring to people and / or things, determinant or adverb.


("lo que" = "what" and at the beginning it means either "what" or "that" depending on context, whereas in the middle it usually means "that" although it can also mean "what"

As you can see there are some rules but exceptions too.)


Lo que hiciste fue malo.                                          What you did was bad.

                                                                                The thing that you did was bad.

(here you have “thing”, so in Spanish you need “lo”)


Lo que creí no es correcto.                                      What I believed is not right.

(“lo” is in the place of your believe)

Yo sé lo que quieres hacer.                                       I know what you want to do.


Lo que pasó hoy.                                                      What happened today

(here if you translate the English part it will be literally “que pasó hoy” but that does not make sense, because something happened and that is why you need to add “lo”. If is a question is ok without “lo”

Qué pasó hoy?, What happened today?)
Lo que se escucha.                                                   What you hear.

                                                                                  The {thing} that you hear is the music from the festival…...


(“lo” because you are talking about something that is hearing, like ...Lo que se escucha es la música del festival que hay en el parque


Lo que los padres deben saber.                                What parents ought to know.


No puedo decidir lo que es mejor.                            I can't decide what is better.

No puedo decidir que es mejor                                 I can't decide what is better.

These 2 sentences are similar, depends on the context, to use one or the other.

I will say… the first one you can use it if you know few things between them you have to decide.

The second one, maybe you still need to find out the things.


Te dijo lo que estaba pensando.                               He told you what he was thinking.

Me dices lo que estás pensando .                              You tell me what you are thinking.

Lo que pensé estaba equivocado.                              What I thought was wrong ( is not a question, so you need “lo” because you was thinking about something)

Lo que hagas por poco que sea es útil.                     What you do however slightly is useful

El te dijo eso?, lo que él te dijo es correcto.              He told you that?, What he told you is correct

Te dije lo que estaba pensando.                                 I told you what I was thinking.

( “lo” is in the place of “something” in the place of your thought.

Yo se lo que tu quieres estudiar.                               I know what you want to study.

(“lo” is in the place of the subject to study, because you know not only that she/he wants to study, you know what is the subject she/he wants to study)

Tu quieres estudiar español.                                      You want to study Spanish


Mis padres me daban todo lo que yo necesitaba.       My parents gave me everything that I needed.

(in this one, in English you have the word “everything”  you need to used ”lo”)

No todo lo que brilla es oro.                                       Not everything that shines is gold.




“Que”   I would translate  as “that”


If you said


Te dijo que estaba pensando,    it would mean     He told you that he was thinking

( just thinking, he did not tell you about what)

Me dices que estás pensando.                               You tell me that you are thinking.

Yo sé que tu quieres ir al banco.                           I know that you want to go to the bank.

(Yo sé lo que tu quieres, in this case I use “lo” in place of “bank”)


2)   “Que”  at the beginning of the sentence it can mean "what”


Que hermoso dia!                                                  What a wonderful day!.

Que bonito  vestido.                                             What a nice dress.

Que película aburrida.                                           What a boring movie.


3)   "Qué" with an accent on the "e" is only used when it is a question word.


¿Qué haces?

¿Qué estás pensando?

¿Qué quieres estudiar?                                                 What do you want to study?



Me dices que estás comiendo.                                  You tell me that you are eating.

Me dices lo que estás comiendo?                             Tell me what are you eating?


Un poco de gramática. A bit of grammar

"lo que" se utiliza sólo cuando ese "lo" se refiere a un objeto directo.

                "lo que" is used only when the "lo" refers to a direct object.
 por ej.

"encontré lo que había perdido"                 "I found what I was lost"
"no sé lo que dijiste"                                   "I do not know what you said"

nunca esa estructura se utiliza en interrogación

 en el caso del ¿qué?,  es correcto
sí se puede preguntar ¿qué fue lo que dijiste?.


      never used this structure in question

as in the case of ¿qué?,   that is correct.
yes,  you can ask.  what did you say?.

I hope it helps  to see the difference!

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