Expressing Causation in Spanish

Why? Just Because

llama at Machu Picchu
Voy al Perú por las ruinas. (I'm going to Peru because of the ruins.). Photo by NeilsPhotography; licensed via Creative Commons.

Do you want to indicate why something is the way it is, or why it happened the way it did? If so, there are plenty of ways to do it in Spanish in addition to the much-used porque ("because").

Indicating causality can be somewhat confusing to people learning Spanish, partly because there isn't one-to-one correspondence between the terms of English and Spanish. Most notably, "because" and "because of" are translated differently into Spanish, and the English word "since" often means the same as "because" but doesn't always.

Here are the most common ways of expressing cause:

Porque: By far the most common translation for "because," porque is used in all sorts of situations. Como porque tengo hambre, I am eating because I am hungry. Se fue porque tenía miedo, he ran away because he was afraid. Porque typically is followed by a word combination that could stand alone as a sentence, so it normally wouldn't be used to translate "because of." As a general rule, unlike most of the other words and phrases listed here, porque can't be used to begin a sentence.

El porqué de: This is a common way of saying "the reason for" and is typically followed by a noun or noun phrase. No explicó el porqué de su beso, he didn't explain the reason for his kiss.

Por: Standing alone as a preposition, por frequently indicates cause and can usually be translated in a wide variety of ways, including "because of." Lo hice por miedo, I did it because of (out of) fear.

Voy al Perú por las ruinas, I am going to Peru because of the ruins. Ganó por trabajar mucho, he won because he worked hard (by means of much work). Except when used as por qué in a question, por normally isn't used to begin sentences. Note also that por is a versatile preposition, having numerous other usages that aren't related to causation.

A causa de: This phrase, which normally is followed by a noun or noun phrase, is a common way of saying "because of." Salió a causa de su padre, he left because of his father. Durmió a causa de su enfermidad, she slept because of her illness. A phrase used in basically the same way is a falta de, "due to lack of." Salió a falta de dinero, he left due to lack of money.

Como: Como is used in a variety of ways, many of which can be translated by the English "as"; when used to indicate cause it comes at the beginning of the sentence. Como estaba enferma, no salió, because she was ill, she didn't leave.

Debido a, debido a que: Debido a can be translated as "due to"; the que is added when what follows could stand as a sentence. Necesitan cadenas debido a la nieve, chains are needed because of the snow. La población está abrumada debido a que la tierra sigue temblando, the people are weary because the ground keeps shaking.

Dado que, ya que, en vista de que, puesto que: All of these phrases roughly mean "in light of the fact that" and can often be translated as "because." Ya que es inteligente, no tiene que estudiar, because he's smart he doesn't have to study. Dado que hay pocos recursos, no puedo estudiar, because there aren't many resources, I can't study.

Les digo un mensaje breve en vista de que estoy ocupado, I am leaving you a brief message because I'm busy. Puesto que tengo hambre, voy a salir, because I am hungry I will leave.

Gracias a: This is literally translated as "thanks to." Se salvaron las tortugas gracias a Greenpeace, the turtles were saved thanks to Greenpeace.