Dequeísmo and Queísmo - Avoid These Mistakes Even Native Speakers Make

When learning a language you do not want to imitate native speakers’ mistakes, but in order to avoid this, my nice defenceless learner, you need someone who will let you know when what you hear or read is incorrect. I would like to be the person to teach you about two widespread mistakes that you should not imitate: el dequeísmo y el queísmo.

I am sure you have met native speakers of your language who use incorrect sentence structures… A native speaker is not necessarily an accurate speaker, and speaking badly is not the way to make a good impression. You know this from your own language, but it applies to the language you are learning too.

Dequeísmo is when someone incorrectly starts a clause with de que instead of with que. Queísmo is the opposite: incorrectly using que when it should be de que. Both of these mistakes are commonly made by some native Spanish speakers, so you are at risk of accidentally learning them yourself.

I will explain in more detail, but first I need to introduce the concept of a subordinate clause:

Subordinate clause

Dequeísmo and queísmo are both mistakes that occur in sentences with a subordinate clause. You might already know what a subordinate clause is, but in case you don’t, here’s an example in English and in Spanish:

main clause {subordinate clause}
Carla says (that) {she will be at home after 6} - that is optional in English
Carla dice que {estará en casa después de las 6} - que is required in Spanish

So we have a clause “Carla dice” (Carla says), followed by another clause that is introduced with “que”. The second clause is dependent on the first clause. Therefore, the second clause is a subordinate clause - a group of words with a verb that cannot stand alone.

Dequeísmo

Dequeísmo is the incorrect use of the preposition de immediately before que, when introducing a subordinate clause:

  • Carla dice que {estará en casa después de las 6} correct
  • Carla dice de que {estará en casa después de las 6} incorrect dequeísmo

How do you know it’s wrong? Because the verb introducing the subordinate clause is decir (to say), and decir never requires a de after it.

For example, in Spanish we could say “Ella dice muchas mentiras”, but we would never say “Ella dice de muchas mentiras”.

So why would anyone add a de after decir when introducing a subordinate clause? Well, the native speaker does not do it on purpose. It’s a bad habit they probably picked up from someone else, and now they speak with dequeísmo unconsciously.

I have been in groups many times where someone was telling a story and using dequeísmo unconsciously. Often about 70% of the group are looking at each other wondering whether it would be rude to correct the speaker, whilst the remaining 30% are probably not even aware of the mistakes.

Comedy sketches often have people talking with dequeísmo when they want to portray them as uneducated or stupid. I always wonder how many people watching such sketches do not find them funny because they are unaware that dequeísmo is wrong.

Common examples of dequeísmo

Pensar + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Pienso que gritar no es bueno correct (I think yelling in not good)
  • Pienso de que gritar no es bueno incorrect dequeísmo

Es fácil/necesario/útil (you can use many different adjectives here) + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Es fácil que te equivoques correct (It’s easy to make a mistake)
  • Es fácil de que te equivoques incorrect dequeísmo

Resulta + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Resulta que quizás cambie de trabajo pronto correct (It so happens that I might change jobs soon)
  • Resulta de que quizás cambie de trabajo pronto incorrect dequeísmo

Suponer + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Supongo que ya te has enterado de la noticia correct (I suppose you have already heard the news)
  • Supongo de que ya te has enterado de la noticia incorrect dequeísmo

Another form of dequeísmo

Sometimes there are verbs that do need a preposition, like confiar en, fijarse en, or insistir en:

  • Confío en tu palabra (I trust your word)
  • Me fijé en sus ojos (I noticed/sensed his/her eyes)
  • Lucas insistió en su idea (Lucas insisted on his idea)

If you add a subordinate clause after these verbs, you still need that preposition. Unfortunately dequeísmo can rear its ugly head here too, as some people erroneously use de instead of en:

Confiar en + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Confío en que me estés contando la verdad correct (I trust that you are telling me the truth)
  • Confío de que me estés contando la verdad incorrect dequeísmo

Insistir en + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Manuel insistió en que no sabía nada sobre Julio correct (Manuel insisted he knew nothing about Julio)
  • Manuel insistió de que no sabía nada sobre Julio incorrect dequeísmo

Fijarse en + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Me fijé en que Julia no llevaba abrigo correct (I noticed that Julia was not wearing a coat)
  • Me fijé de que Julia no llevaba abrigo incorrect dequeísmo

Unfortunately, some of these verbs can also suffer queísmo (though not at the same time as dequeísmo). I’ll explain queísmo next:

Queísmo

The opposite error occurs when the speaker leaves out the preposition required by the verb - most commonly de - before the que and the subordinate clause. This is known as queísmo and it is another unconscious error that sounds ugly and can easily confuse an innocent Spanish learner. Some examples:

Alegrarse + de que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Me alegro de que estés contenta en tu trabajo correct (I am glad that you are happy in your job)
  • Me alegro que estés contenta en tu trabajo incorrect queísmo

Acordarse + de que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Me acuerdo de que estuve en esa plaza hace muchos años correct (I remember that I was in that square many years ago)
  • Me acuerdo que estuve en esa misma plaza hace muchos años incorrect queísmo

Estar seguro/a + de que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Estoy seguro de que dejé la cartera en casa correct (I am sure that I left the wallet at home)
  • Estoy seguro que dejé la cartera en casa incorrect queísmo

When the same verb can be a victim of dequeísmo or queísmo

I explained above about a form of dequeísmo on verbs like insistir en where people erroneously replace the required preposition (en) with a de when it is followed by a que and a subordinate clause. Well some of these verbs like insistir en and confiar en often fall victim to queísmo when the required preposition (en) is erroneously dropped instead:

Insistir en + que + {subordinate clause}:

  • Manuel insistió en que no sabía nada sobre Julio correct (Manuel insisted he knew nothing about Julio)
  • Manuel insistió que no sabía nada sobre Julio incorrect queísmo

Confiar + en que + subordinate clause

  • Confío en que me estés contando la verdad correct (I trust that you are telling me the truth)
  • Confío que me estés contando la verdad incorrect queísmo

How to avoid these mistakes

Remember that dequeísmo is erroneously putting a de before a que, whilst queísmo is leaving out a required de (or another preposition) before a que. So how do you know which option is correct? To de or not to de - that is the question!

Well, it all depends on the verb you are using. Remember my example with decir? Well, decir should not have a de before a que and a subordinate clause (e.g. “Ella dice que lo hizo” is correct). In contrast alegrarse should (e.g. “Me alegro de que estas contenta” is correct).

Fortunately if you look up a verb in a dictionary you will always find examples of how to use the verb in context. These examples will show you whether you should include a de or not.

Achieving fluency in a language relies on knowing what you should not repeat as well as what you should repeat. Maybe you will eventually become so fluent that can correct native Spanish speakers… Why not?!