Why the article "O" in "O que"?

I tried searching for a topic about this on here and couldn't find any. So because I am the kind of person who has to know why everything happens I decided to make my own. I have been studying Portuguese for a while and have noticed the similarities between it and Spanish. There are some slight differences though. In Spanish if you wanted to say "what" you could just say "qué", but I Portuguese you have to say "O que". This difference is bugging me to no end. Why do you have to use the article "O" when saying "what" in Portuguese when you don't have to say the article "el" in Spanish?

July 2, 2018


I'm brazilian and i realize that i just don't knew and never asked why it happens. But i searched and find this: "O" is an expletive pronoun because it only has a highlighting function and can be taken from the sentence without a change in its meaning.

You can remove "O" from the sentence, but for us sounds like is something missing. It's usual use it.

July 3, 2018

Here's a link to a similar question by a Portuguese person on a Portuguese language website:

According to the website, both forms are acceptable, that is, "o que" and "que" exist. However, there are certain authors who prefer the full "o que". Others say that the interrogative pronoun without the definite article is correct. I guess it all boils down to a matter of style.

There was a similar question on Yahoo questions too:

Read the person's answer below to get a better understanding of when to use one form or the other.

July 3, 2018

Many things may have an explanation, but languages are conventions.

Sometimes, and I think it's the case here, people just agree with something and do it.

July 3, 2018

Aha! This is perhaps the most enigmatic answer I've seen by you. :D

Why not point to one of your greatest works here on DL with the profound but simple:

"O que" works like a pronoun, while "que" works like an adjective.

July 12, 2018

It seemed they already knew that part...?

July 12, 2018

Ah, well that part was not clear to me (perhaps I am just dense – which is true often enough).

Portuguese was born from Galego (Galacian language) and not from Spanish (which is actually Castilian) so perhaps it is Spanish that has some similarities to Portuguese. :)

It is the Galicians who insisted on articles and contractions (and pronouns attached at the end of verbs too):

Anyway, what I have been told (by many though) is that the Romance languages have a bit of a hierarchy. For instance, if one can understand Portuguese then it is much easier to understand (pick up on) French, Italian and Spanish. Romanian though is at the top being able to get Portuguese (and all the others too) but the Portuguese not understanding the complexity of Romanian. Spanish however, is at the bottom of the stack.

Seems true enough. I can understand almost as much Spanish now (even in listening) as I do of Portuguese, and I have not studied Spanish.

July 12, 2018

Cool :D

What I know is that "Spanish" is the closest to Portuguese. We do get Spanish quite easily. Then Italian as the second easiest to us. Then French, which is terrible to our ears.

Spanish speakers find it easy to get Italian, but can't get Portuguese (all I can think is that it's about listening, because Spanish and Portuguese are really really similar)

July 12, 2018

In fact you can also use the "what" but some people may be surprised, so some prefer "what". It often depends on the mode you prefer.

July 4, 2018
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