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The Difference Between "Why" and "Because" in Spanish

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/14/2012

The answer to this question may seem easy, since most readers know that "because" is "porque" but that's just the beginning of the story. Read this article to learn how many ways there are in Spanish of dealing with the various ways English has of using this word.

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    Conjunction or Preposition? It Matters a Lot!

    First, recall that to ask why, we say ¿Por qué? It is written as two words, with an accent on the last word. It sounds exactly like porque, which means because. It is a conjunction. Conjunctions are followed by clauses, with a conjugated verb. So when porque (because) is used, it will be followed by information that explains why whatever is said in the first clause happened. Notice in the following example that the clause that follows the conjunction has a conjugated verb (estaba/was):

    Mi hermano se quedó en casa porque estaba enfermo (My brother stayed home because he was sick).

    This word and its use is relatively easy. It corresponds to one of the English uses of because. However, the other uses of because in English often involve a preposition, such as because of -- and this little addition, as often is the case when a preposition is added, will alter things greatly when seeking a solution in Spanish. Now the concept of causality is expressed with a preposition. In Spanish, the most common solution is to use a causa de plus a noun or pronoun. Do not use porque de!

    A causa de la tormenta decidimos regresar a puerto (Due to/Because of the storm, we decided to return to port).

    Compramos el vestido a causa de ella (We bought the dress because of her).

    When the object of the preposition is not a person, debido a -- plus a non-personal noun -- is preferred.

    Dejaron la canoa en la ribera debido al trabajo de subirla al campamento (They left the canoe on the riverbank due to the trouble of carrying it up to the camp).

    Finally, por is also a preposition that indicates cause: by, for the sake of, out of, or other expressions of motive:

    Por su culpa, no pude regresar a tiempo (On account of him/his fault, I couldn't get back in time).

    Lo hicimos por la gloria (We did it for glory's sake).

References

  • Author's more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.

Spanish Usage

The articles in this series deal with various questions about the right choice of word or phrase when English may have one or two structures but Spanish has more. They often deal with prepositional issues.
  1. Spanish Usage Questions: "Above"
  2. Using "Actual" and "Actually" in Spanish
  3. A Problem Preposition: The Ways "About" is Expressed in Spanish
  4. The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb "to Agree"
  5. Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say "Again"
  6. Expressing the Many Meanings of After
  7. Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say "Ahead"
  8. Spanish Usage Questions: "Anyone" and "Anybody"
  9. Using "Anyway..." in Spanish
  10. Let's Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
  11. What Do You Use for "Around" in Spanish
  12. The Spanish Verbs Meaning "to Ask" are Many!
  13. Beware of False Cognates! How to Express "Attend," "Assist," and "Help"
  14. Are You "Cool" or "Cold"? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
  15. The Difference Between "Why" and "Because" in Spanish
  16. The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of "Before": How to Get it Right in Spanish
  17. Don't Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of "Behind" in Spanish
  18. Get the Low Down on the Preposition "Below" and Say it Right in Spanish!
  19. Understand Saying "Help" in Spanish
  20. Translating "Beside" & "Besides" into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
  21. Not all Meanings of "But" Are Equal!
  22. Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition "By" in Spanish
  23. What Can the English Word "Can" Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
  24. Spanish Usage Questions: "Corner"
  25. The Word "Country" in Spanish
  26. The Various Meanings of "Outweigh" in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
  27. Expressing the Idea of "Ownership" in Spanish
  28. How to Express "Time & Distance" in Spanish
  29. Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with... In Spanish, You Probably Need "Tratar"
  30. Spanish Usage Questions: "Having Fun"
  31. Even a Word Like "Even" Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
  32. Don't Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express "to fail"
  33. Do You Mean "Fair" Weather, a "Fair" Game or a "Fair" Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
  34. Love, Desire and Wanting -- Spanish Style!
  35. Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing... and More
  36. You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say "Fear" in Spanish!
  37. Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word "Find"
  38. Discover the Various Meanings of "Middle" and How to Say Them in Spanish
  39. Not All Spanish Words Meaning "Worker" Are Created Equal