‘Que no’ is a common Spanish chunk that can be used either as a standalone phrase or as part of a longer sentence. It´s composed of the words ‘que’ and ‘no’, which (normally!) translate to either ‘what’ or ‘that’ (depending on context) and, of course, ‘no’.
Unfortunately, ‘que no’ has no fixed translation in English and it has quite a number of uses.
But don’t worry, in this article I´m going to explain exactly what ‘que no’ means AND how to use it like a pro!
Let´s get into it!
Uses / Meanings of ‘que no’ in Spanish
‘Que no’ can be used in multiple ways –
- To quote someone saying ‘no’
- To specify who / what you´re talking about
- To form negative questions
- To say ‘no’ decisively
- To express surprise
To quote someone saying ‘no’
If you want to say that someone else (or even yourself) said ‘no’, you can use the following structure –
decir (conjugated accordingly) + que no
Ana – Oye, ¿qué dijo tu mamá sobre dejarnos hacer la fiesta en tu casa?
Lucía – Ah, dijo que no, porque la última vez dejamos un mugrero.
Ana – Hey, what did your mother say about letting us throw the party at your house?
Lucía – Oh, she said no, because last time we made a mess.
¡Ya dijo que no!
He already said no!
To specify who / what you’re talking about
Sometimes ‘que no’ can be used to specify what or whom you’re talking about.
In this context, ‘que no’ is part of what´s called a “relative clause”, which is basically a part of a sentence that gives you more information about a person or thing but that DOESN´T work as a standalone sentence.
La vecina que no me soporta está en mi casa.
The neighbor that can’t stand me is at my house.
In the example above I specify which neighbor I´m referring to by providing the extra detail that she can’t stand me.
To form negative questions
You can sometimes whack a ‘no’ after the “interrogative pronoun” ‘qué’ (don´t forget the accent!) to form a negative question.
This structure is normally used when choosing something specific (and NEGATIVE) from a group of things.
Let´s look at some examples –
¿Qué no te gustó de la película?
What didn´t you like about the movie?
¿Qué coche no funciona?
Which car doesn´t work?
¿Qué no entiendes?
What don’t you understand?
To say ‘no’ decisively
I’m sure that, at some point in your life, someone you know has been very insistent about doing something that you didn´t want them to do or that you didn´t want to do yourself.
And what happened when that person wouldn’t take no for answer?
Well, your patience probably wore pretty thin!
This is exactly the situation in which we can whip out a ‘¡Que no!’ or ‘¡Te dije que no!’ (usually said in an angry tone and accompanied by a scowl).
Luis – Entonces, ¿ya me vas a dar el ‘sí’? (a ser su novia)
María – ¡Que no!
Luis – So, are you finally saying ‘yes’? (to be his girlfriend)
María – I already said no!
To express surprise
You can use the structure ‘cómo’ + ‘que no’ to express surprise / confusion about a specific situation.
It´s a bit like saying ‘what do you mean’ or ‘how so’ in English.
Hijo – Mamá no me quiso llevar a la escuela.
Papá – ¡Cómo que no!
Son – Mom didn’t want to drive me to school.
Dad – What do you mean!
Erika´s top tip – ‘cómo que no‘ and ‘cómo no‘ are super common phrases in everyday Spanish; make sure to check out our article on all things ‘cómo no’ for even more examples!
‘Que sí’ meaning
‘Que sí’ is used in a similar way to ‘que no’. Only, instead of expressing negation, it now communicates affirmation through the word ‘sí’ or ‘yes’.
Let’s see what happens when we change the word ‘no’ for ‘sí’.
To quote someone saying yes
¡Ya dijo que sí!
He already said yes!
To specify who / what you´re talking about
La tía que sí me agrada viene de visita.
The aunt that I do like is coming to visit.
To form questions (when choosing something specific from a group)
¿Qué sí te gusta de mí?
What DO you like about me?
María – ¿Quieres escuchar reggae?
Juan – No.
María – ¿Rock?
Juan – No.
María – Entonces, ¿qué si te gusta escuchar?
María – Do you want to listen to reggae?
Juan – No.
María – Rock?
Juan – No.
María – So, what DO you want to listen to?
To say ‘yes’ decisively
Paulo – Entonces, ¿sí vamos al parque?
Isis – ¡Que sí!
Paulo – So, are we going to the park?
Isis – Yes! (cue angry tone and obligatory scowl)
‘A que no’ meaning
If you´re in Mexico, then you’ll likely hear an ‘a que no’ at some point or another.
It’s a phrase often used to throw down that metaphorical gauntlet and normally translates to ‘I bet you can’t’ or ‘I challenge you’.
¿A que no nos echamos una partida de ajedrez?
I challenge you to a game of chess.
You can also use it to form questions, kind of like the English ‘right’ or the Spanish ‘verdad’ –
¿A que no me quieres mucho?
You love me a lot, right?
No te gusta cómo canto, ¿a que no? / ¿verdad?
You don’t like my singing, right?
‘Que no’ pronunciation
‘Que’ is said like ‘keh’ and ‘no’ like ‘noh’.
/ keh noh /
Well, that´s all there is to know about the phrase ‘que no’ (yippee!).
Keep in mind that there´s no English equivalent which is why it´s sometimes better to learn Spanish in “chunks” or “phrases”.
Oh, and make sure you check out our article on ‘qué pena‘ if you’d like to learn another super useful Spanish chunk!
Now get out there and start practicing!