Relative pronouns refer to something previously mentioned. In French, the equivalent of what/which can be ce que.
Learn about the French relative pronoun ce qui
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.
When to use ce que instead of ce qui
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.
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