Spanish «Por qué» and «Porque»: What’s the difference?

In Spanish, there are 4 terms which sound very similar, yet they have different meanings. They are the following:

  • Por qué = why
  • Porque = because
  • Porqué = reason, cause
  • Por que (several meanings)

Now let’s see example sentences using each term:

Por qué = why

¿Por qué? = Why?

¿Por qué aprendes español? = Why are you learning Spanish?

¿Sabes por qué te quiero tanto? = Do you know why I love you so much?

No me dijo por qué. = He didn’t tell me why.

Porque = because

María aprende español porque tiene un novio mexicano. = María learns Spanish because she has a Mexican boyfriend.

Lo hago porque quiero = I do it because I want to.

Porqué = reason, cause

It is a masculine noun, usually preceded by the articles «el» or «un».

No sé el porqué de esa actitud. = I don’t know the reason for that attitude.

Se fue y no me dio un porqué. = He went away, but he didn’t give me a reason.

Por que (several meanings)

This is just the preposition «por» followed by the relative pronoun «que». This case is more vague and it can have several different meanings.

One possible meaning is «for which…»:

Estas son las acciones por que fue criticado = These are the actions for which he was criticized.

It also can follow some verbs or expressions that use the preposition «por», when introducing a subordinate clause:

Mis padres optaron por que estudiara Derecho. = My parents opted for me to study Law. («optar por» = to opt for)