There are words in Spanish which change their meaning simply when you use a written accent. Let's look at quién vs quien.
Quien without an accent
Quien is a relative pronoun, it is usually translated by who.
Mi tío, quien ha trabajado siempre muy duro, tiene varias empresas.My uncle, who has always worked very hard, owns several companies.
Esa chica, con quien salí el mes pasado, tiene un novio nuevo.That girl, who I dated last month, has a new boyfriend.
Quien estudia mucho consigue buenos resultados.Whoever studies a lot gets good results.
Quién with an accent
Quién is an interrogative pronoun that is used in direct and indirect interrogative sentences. It is also translated as who.
No sé en quién confiar.I don't know who to trust.
Ella no me dijo quién le había llamado.She didn't tell me who called her.
¿Quién quiere un chocolate caliente?Who would like a hot chocolate?
As both quién and quien are translated by who, it is sometimes difficult to know which one you need. If you can substitute who by the question words (interrogative) "which person" and the sentence still makes sense, that you need quién (with an accent).
¿Quién quiere un chocolate caliente?
Who/Which person would like a hot chocolate? (It makes sense)
Quien estudia mucho consigue buenos resultados.
Who/Which person studies a lot gets good results. (It doesn't make sense.)
Plural quiénes, quienes
Remember that you can also use them in their plural form: quiénes/quienes
Mis hermanos, quienes son muy vagos, nunca quieren caminar al centro.My brothers, who are very lazy, never want to walk to town.
Hemos aplaudido mucho a quienes han cantado maravillosamente.We clapped a lot for (those) who sang beautifully.
Hay muchos candidatos. ¿Quiénes son los mejores?There are lots of candidates. Who are the best ones?
- Quién/quiénes are interrogatives and have a written accent.
- Quien/quienes are relative pronouns and do not have a written accent.
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