Porque vs. por qué? That is the question

Porque vs. por qué? That is the question

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated August 7, 2023

Porque vs. por que? Or is it porqué vs. por qué? Which spelling is correct, and what are the meanings of these words in Spanish? 

Learning Spanish presents a number of grammar, vocabulary and spelling challenges. For one, you have to pay close attention to accent marks when learning how to spell certain words. 

Porque, por qué, por que and porqué are four similar words that change in meaning with just an accent or space:

  1. Porque (one word with no accent mark) means “because.” 
  2. Por qué (two words with an accent on the question) literally translates to “for what.” Despite the literal translation, por qué actually means “why.” 
  3. El porqué is a noun meaning “the reason.”
  4. You’ll see por que (two words with no accent mark) in colloquial conversation when using the proposition por + the relative pronoun que in the middle of a phrase. 

If this feels confusing, don’t worry! In this post, we’ll learn how to use the different forms of porque and give examples of each. It’s time to clear up the confusion! 

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Porque and por qué

First, let’s look at the spelling and usage of porque vs. por qué.


Porque means “because.” It has no spaces and no accent marks. Porque is used as a conjunction to link two clauses — a result and a reason.  

Perdí el tren porque llegué tarde. I missed the train because I was late. 
Compré un vestido nuevo porque hoy es la quincena.I bought a new dress because today is payday. 

The word porque is often used to directly respond to the question ¿Por qué…?. 

¿Por qué no vienes a la fiesta? 
Porque estoy cansada.
Why aren’t you coming to the party?
Because I’m tired. 
¿Por qué no estudian más? 
Porque trabajan tanto. 
Why don’t they study more?
Because they work too much. 
¿Por qué ella ve tantas películas? 
Porque quiere ser actor. 
Why does she watch so many movies?
Because she wants to be an actor. 

Por qué 

As we see above, por qué translates to “why” in English. It is written as two words and has an accent on the –e. Use this to ask a question. 

¿Por qué no vienes a la fiesta?Why aren’t you coming to the party?
¿Por qué no estudian más? Why don’t they study more? 
¿Por qué ella ve tantas películas? Why does she watch so many movies?

Notice that you need an inverted question mark before the word and an upright question mark at the end of the phrase. Click here to watch a funny TikTok video that uses ¿Por qué? in the context of a question.

Spanish speakers also use this version in reported speech and indirect questions. In this case, it does not require question marks.

Me preguntó por qué veo tantas películas. She asked me why I watch so many movies. 
No sé por qué dijiste no. I don’t know why you said no. 
Quiero saber por qué están tan felices. I want to know why they are so happy. 

The difference between porqué and por que

Now, let’s take a look at the differences between porqué and por que.

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Por que

Por que means “for which” or “for a motive.” It is written as two separate words with no accent. The format is the proposition por + the relative pronoun que. It often has an implied article in between, which is sometimes omitted in speech.

Note that there is no direct translation for this version of por que in English. When translating sentences with por que into English, you’ll often use “why,” as we do in the examples below.

Esta es la razón por (la) que no vine a la fiesta. This is the reason why I didn’t come to the party. 
Ese es el motivo por (el) que me mudo a una nueva escuela.That is my motive for why I am moving to a new school.

It is more common in Spanish to write por el que, por la que, por el cual or por la cual with the article included in the phrase.

El porqué

El porqué means “the reason” or “the motive.” It is written as one word with an accent on the –e.

Mi jefe quería saber los porqués de mi renuncia. My boss wanted to know the reasons I quit.
Todo tiene un porqué.Everything has a reason.
El verano es el porqué de mi felicidad.Summer is the reason for my happiness.

Let’s make it clear

You might still have some confusion about which porque to use. That’s okay! If you come from an English-speaking background, being unfamiliar with accent marks is normal. You will get more used to watching out for them as you study. In the meantime, here’s a cheat sheet with the basic meaning and uses of the four versions of porque.

SpanishMeaning in EnglishUse Cases
por qué”why” questions, indirect questions and reported speech 
porque”because”to answer the question, “Why?,” and as a conjunction between two clauses
por que“for which” or “for a motive”to describe why something is done
el porqué“the reason”to describe the reason for something

Because why?

The question of whether to use porque vs. por que does not always have a straightforward, one-word answer. The good news? Now you have the tools to understand and use these four versions in the appropriate context! Practice using each one, and you’ll be speaking like a natural in no time. Taking a Spanish class with native-speaking instructor feedback can help you advance even faster. Instead of asking por qué (why?), you might try asking por qué no (why not?).

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez
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