Ce que (vs ce qui) = what, which (relative pronouns)

These examples show how ce que is used:

Je fais ce que je veux.
I do what I want.

Lise pense à ce qu'il lui a dit.
Lise thinks about what he told her.

Tu ne devineras jamais ce que Paul a fait!
You will never guess what Paul did!

Il croit ce que la télé lui raconte.
He believes what the TV tells him.

How to know when to use ce que instead of ce qui in French

The pattern to spot is that we use ce que when the next word is a subject pronoun (je/tu/il etc.) or a noun.
 
Note that ce que becomes ce qu' in front of a vowel or a mute h.

Contrast this with ce qui - notice the words immediately following:
 

Il a gagné la course, ce qui est impressionnant.
He won the race, which is amazing.

 

Je ne sais pas ce qui m'arrive.
I don't know what is happening to me.

 
 

When to use ce qui or ce que versus qui or que ?

In cases where ce qui / ce que would also be translated by which in English, you need to ask yourself: What is que/qui/ce que/ce qui referring to?

If it refers to a noun (expressed before), then you will use que/qui.

If it refers to the whole part of the sentence, the whole idea, then it will be ce que/ce qui.

Mes plantes, que j'arrose tous les jours, sont très belles.
My plants, which I water every day, are very beautiful.

Here que refers to plants.

J'aime les bananes, ce que tu trouves fascinant.
I love bananas, which you find fascinating.

Here ce que refers to the whole fact that I love bananas, not just to the bananas.

ATTENTION: Case of quoi

Quoi will be used when what is followed by an infinitive = "what to do, what to think...":

Je ne sais pas quoi faire.
I don't know what to do.

Il se demande quoi choisir.
He's wondering what to choose.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Tu ne comprends pas ce que je t'explique.
You don't understand what I'm explaining to you.


Il croit ce que la télé lui raconte.
He believes what the TV tells him.


Lise pense à ce qu'il lui a dit.
Lise thinks about what he told her.


Tu ne devineras jamais ce que Paul a fait!
You will never guess what Paul did!


Je fais ce que je veux.
I do what I want.


J'aime les bananes, ce que tu trouves fascinant.
I love bananas, which you find fascinating.




Q&A

Louise

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2018

1 reply

"use ce que when followed by a subject pronoun (je/tu/il etc)" this statement is in the lesson.

When I did a test, I answered one wrong because the correct answer was;

Nous ne savons pas ce qui tu fais

Could you please explain this?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2018

16/07/18

Because this question is asking you to select the one answer that is not correct.

tinoe

Kwiziq community member

15 November 2017

1 reply

the order of pronouns

e.g me te se nous vous etc

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

16 November 2017

16/11/17

Bonjour Tinoe,

Please take a look at our lesson: https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/double-object-pronouns-using-direct-and-indirect-object-pronouns-together

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

10 June 2017

3 replies

Hello Aurélie,

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

10 June 2017

10/06/17

Oops pressed send too fast. Is qu'est-ce que tu m'as acheté wrong as compared to asking Ce que tu m'as acheté

Chris

Kwiziq community member

13 June 2017

13/06/17

Bien que je ne sois Aurélie j'essaie d'y répondre. Le premier example me semble juste. Mais le second n'est pas une question. C'est le debut d'une phrase relative.

-- Chris.

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

13 June 2017

13/06/17

Merci Claus. I was answering one of the Kwizzes and used the first phrase to lead into the answer. I have forgotten the whole sentence (sorry, thought the context would be able to be seen by admin) but I figured it should have allowed both answers and not given me a red dot!

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

13 April 2017

9 replies

Can you please spell out the difference between using que/qui and ce qui/ce que

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

18 April 2017

18/04/17

Bonjour Steven !

Do you mean when to use "quE" vs "quI", or "CE que/CE qui" vs "QUE/QUI" ?

Cordially

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

18 April 2017

18/04/17

The latter...Ce que/ce qui vs que/qui -I think I'm getting a better grasp of this..I have studied it more now than when I asked the question...and it is becoming clearer...but I have to pause and think a lot before answering...perhaps your clarification would add to my 'nailing it'...merci...Steve

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2017

19/04/17

Bonjour Steve !

Both "ce que/ce qui" and "que/qui" are pronouns, which means they repeat something previously stated.
"The table *that* I bought." -> here *that* repeats "table"

The difference between "ce que" and "que" is what they're referring to.
As we explained in the related lesson, "que"(which/that) replaces a noun, whereas "ce que"(what/which) replaces a whole clause (i.e. containing a verb):
"*I eat a lot of bread*, which makes me bloated."
-> Here it's the whole statement which is repeated in "which" (It's the fact that I eat too much bread that makes me bloated) = ce qui
Je mange beaucoup de pain, ce qui me ballone.
"I love *the dog* that you got for me."
-> Here it's only "the dog" which is repeated in "that" (you got me the dog) = que
J'adore le chien que tu m'as offert.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 April 2017

19/04/17

Bonjour Steve !

Both "ce que/ce qui" and "que/qui" are pronouns, which means they repeat something previously stated.
"The table *that* I bought." -> here *that* repeats "table"

The difference between "ce que" and "que" is what they're referring to.
As we explained in the related lesson, "que"(which/that) replaces a noun, whereas "ce que"(what/which) replaces a whole clause (i.e. containing a verb):
"*I eat a lot of bread*, which makes me bloated."
-> Here it's the whole statement which is repeated in "which" (It's the fact that I eat too much bread that makes me bloated) = ce qui
Je mange beaucoup de pain, ce qui me ballone.
"I love *the dog* that you got for me."
-> Here it's only "the dog" which is repeated in "that" (you got me the dog) = que
J'adore le chien que tu m'as offert.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2017

19/04/17

Thanks Aurélie...getting it a lot more...had made a little page summarising the appropriate rules info...which you have just reiterated...so will go over it until it is second nature...thank you...Steve

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2017

19/04/17

The difference between qui and ce qui you haven't mentioned...if you can please clarify and I can move on...Steve... Ce qui is before a verb and refers also to the whole sentence - qui also refers to the preceding noun...so what is the difference here between use of que or qui )))

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2017

19/04/17

I guess that que refers to the preceding noun and what follows is a pronoun...with qui -this refers to the preceding noun but is followed by a verb...is that correct?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

19 April 2017

19/04/17

Oui exactement Stephen, vous avez parfaitement compris !

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

19 April 2017

19/04/17

Merci beaucoup !!!!

Don

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

2 replies

Aren't some of the answers to question 1 ambiguous with regard to their correctness?

I understand that "Vous pouvez prendre tout ce qu'est sur la table" is the answer to question 1 because it should be using "ce qui" instead of "ce que." But aren't the other questions which use "tout" also possibly incorrect. For example, in "Tout ce qu'il fait m'agace," wouldn't this be incorrect if "tout" was being used as a noun instead of a pronoun? In such case, the "ce" should be dropped to be correct.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

11 April 2017

11/04/17

Bonjour Don !

I had a look at the lesson, and actually the question you're referring to was "Which is *not* correct?", the answer being indeed "Vous pouvez prendre tout *ce qu'*est sur la table." as "ce qui" would be the correct option here.

As for the case of "tout ce que/tout ce qui", this is actually the object of a different lesson in the system, so thanks to you, I've now moved this question accordingly.
Note that "tout" used on its own (not like "le tout") is always a pronoun followed by "ce".

Have a look at our lesson on "tout ce que/tout ce qui":
https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/tout-ce-qui-tout-ce-que-all-everything-that

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Don

Kwiziq community member

11 April 2017

11/04/17

So then I guess my real problem was knowing when "tout" was a noun, which was crucial to knowing whether to use "ce" or not. You're saying the only time "tout" is a noun is when it is preceded by an article? If so, would these two sentences then be correct? "C'est le tout que nous devons. C'est tout ce que nous devons." Thanks for your help.

Helena

Kwiziq community member

28 January 2016

6 replies

How do you know when to use que/qui instead of ce que/qui

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

28 January 2016

28/01/16

Bonjour Helena,
That's a very interesting question indeed!
Let's point out first that we're talking about the relative pronouns here, which are used to introduce a new information in a sentence (as opposed to question words like "what?").

Once you know this, the separation is quite simple: "qui/que" can mean "who/which/that ..." whereas "ce qui/ce que" mean "what ...".


La fille que je regarde. (The girl whom[m]/that I'm watching.)
Je fais ce que je veux. (I do what I want.)

I hope that's helpful!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

28 January 2016

28/01/16

Precision: in cases where "ce qui / ce que" would also be translated by "which" in English, you need to ask yourself: What does "que/qui/ce que/ce qui" is referring to?
If it refers to a noun (expressed before), then you will use "que/qui".
If it refers to the whole part of the sentence, the whole idea, then it will be "ce que/ce qui".


Les gens que je rencontre ... (The people which I meet...)
-> Here "que" refers to "people"

J'aime les bananes, ce que tu trouves fascinant. (I love bananas, which you find fascinating.)
-> Here "ce que" refers to the whole fact that I love bananas, not just to the bananas


:)

Helena

Kwiziq community member

29 January 2016

29/01/16

Thank you!!! That was so clearly explained too - even if I'm confused in the future I now know how to figure out which one to use! :)

Ron

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

10/04/17

J'aime les bananes, ce que tu trouves fascinant. (I love bananas, which you find fascinating.)
Here "ce que" refers to the whole fact that I love bananas, not just to the bananas. . .
While I understand the explanation given, using the rule of thumb about following a noun, "If it refers to a noun (expressed before), then you will use "que/qui"." then que could also be correct, i.e. he finds bananas fascinating -- of course in reality that would be interesting that someone found bananas fascinating, like he/she had never seen a banana.
I do believe the better example is: "Je fais ce que je veux. (I do what I want.)"

Kevin

Kwiziq community member

7 June 2018

7/06/18

And this confusion is exactly why I don't get this lesson... still... after weeks of trying it just won't go in.  The whole "introducing new information" idea above just makes no sense to me at all... :-(

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 June 2018

13/06/18

Bonjour Ron !


In the case you pointed out, I agree that if what was found fascinating was only the bananas, you could use que, as follows :


J'aime les bananes que tu trouves fascinantes.
ATTENTION, as it would mean something slightly different here:
I love the bananas that you find fascinating.

Bonne journée !


 

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