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

These examples show how ce qui (what/which) is used:
 

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

 

Ce qui fait peur ici, ce sont les médias.
What is really scary here, is the media.

 

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

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

The pattern to spot is that we use ce qui when the next word is a verb or an object or reflexive pronoun (for example: me, te, se, lui, le, la, nous, vous, leur, les). 

Note that ce qui never becomes ce qu' in front of a vowel or a mute h.
 
Contrast with these sentences where ce que is used - notice the words immediately following
 

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

 

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

 

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.

Ces fleurs, qui sont des tournesols, poussent bien ici.
These flowers, which are sunflowers, grow well here.

Here qui refers to flowers.

J'utilise de l'aloe vera tous les jours, ce qui est très bon pour ma peau.
I use aloe vera every day, which is very good for my skin.

Here ce qui refers to the whole fact that I use aloe vera every day, not just to aloe vera.

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

J'utilise de l'aloe vera tous les jours, ce qui est très bon pour ma peau.
I use aloe vera every day, which is very good for my skin.


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


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




Ce qui = what


Ce qui fait peur ici, ce sont les médias.
What is really scary here, is the media.


Ce qui = what ...


Ce qui m'embête c'est son attitude.
What bothers me is her/his attitude. 


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


Ce qui = which ...


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


Q&A Forum 13 questions, 35 answers

JoanA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Ce que j'apprécie le plus chez toi, c'est ton honnêteté = C'est ton honnêteté que j'apprécie le plus chez toi ?

Asked 1 month ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Yes, the two sentences are correct and mean the same thing. Was that your question?

Ce que j'apprécie le plus chez toi, c'est ton honnêteté = C'est ton honnêteté que j'apprécie le plus chez toi ?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

JoanA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Which one is correct: 'Que vous dites là est excessif' or 'Vous dites là est excessif' or 'Ce que vous dites là est excessif?'

Asked 1 month ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Joan,

The only correct one is -

'Ce que vous dîtes là est excessif!'

JoanA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thank you Cécile. I wonder why it is not 'Ce qui' instead? (Ce qui vous dîtes là est excessif) as the fact that 'vous dîtes là' is a subject, and subject should use ce qui?

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The subject of the sentence is vous and the object is ce que. You can only use ce que if it is the object of the sentence; if it happens to be the subject, you use ce qui.

Furthermore, ce que/ce qui is used for inanimate objects and que/qui for persons.

Maybe an example is in order:

Ce qui se passe est intéressant. -- What happens is interesting. (Here ce qui is the subject.)
Ce que tu dises est intéressant. -- What you say is interesting. ("You" is the subject and ce que the object)

Which one is correct: 'Que vous dites là est excessif' or 'Vous dites là est excessif' or 'Ce que vous dites là est excessif?'

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

AyçaC1Kwiziq community member

"Tu sais ce qui est le plus efficace", qui = Who or what ?

Salut tout le monde ! 

I was asked to translate "tu sais ce qui est le plus efficace ?", j'y ai répondu "do you know who is the most efficient?" mais la bonne réponse est "do you Kong what is post efficient?".


J'ai du mal à comprendre pourquoi les deux ne sont pas corrects, j'apprécierais une explication. Merci beaucoup ! :)

Asked 1 month ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Ce qui and ce que can only be used to refer to inanimate things, so they can't be translated as "who". To say "who is the most efficient", you would just use qui on its own.

OdanbestA0Kwiziq community member

Tu said ce qui es le plus efficace means do you know what is more effective?

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Tu sais ce qui est le plus efficace? -- Do you know what is the most efficient?

Tu sais qui est le plus efficace? -- Do you know who is the most efficient?

"Tu sais ce qui est le plus efficace", qui = Who or what ?

Salut tout le monde ! 

I was asked to translate "tu sais ce qui est le plus efficace ?", j'y ai répondu "do you know who is the most efficient?" mais la bonne réponse est "do you Kong what is post efficient?".


J'ai du mal à comprendre pourquoi les deux ne sont pas corrects, j'apprécierais une explication. Merci beaucoup ! :)

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

MichaelC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Un example: ce qui vs. qui

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

Il a gagné la course, qui est impressionnante.He won the amazing race.

Dans le deuxième, c'est la course qui est impressionnante. C'était la course qui était impressionnants, pas qu'il l'a gagné.

Est-ce-que correct, ce logique ?

Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Michael,

Just a couple of language corrections -

"...C'était la course qui était impressionnante, pas le fait qu'il a gagné ..

Est-ce que c'est correct, c'est logique ?

or 

est-ce correct, logique?"

But qui and ce qui  were correctly used....

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Michael,

yes, your logic is correct.

MichaelC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thanks Chris and Cécile

Un example: ce qui vs. qui

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

Il a gagné la course, qui est impressionnante.He won the amazing race.

Dans le deuxième, c'est la course qui est impressionnante. C'était la course qui était impressionnants, pas qu'il l'a gagné.

Est-ce-que correct, ce logique ?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

AmandaC1Kwiziq community member

Ce qui ce que

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

 Ce qui in this suggests the word race is the subject.  Why?  I am really struggling with which is the subject or object in more complex sentences.  Isn’t he the subject doing the winning ?
Asked 9 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Amanda,

In grammatical terms, it is the fact that he won the race which is amazing and not the race itself.

AmandaC1Kwiziq community member

Thanks

Ce qui ce que

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

 Ce qui in this suggests the word race is the subject.  Why?  I am really struggling with which is the subject or object in more complex sentences.  Isn’t he the subject doing the winning ?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

WladuszkaC1Kwiziq community member

So basically, "quoi" is accusative case, right?

Asked 10 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi  Wladuszka,

‘Quoi’ is an interrogative pronoun in French . We don’t  use ‘accusative case’ in French grammar....

GuillaumeB2Kwiziq community member

Actually, just as with English what, the word quoi serves several functions.  In the sentences in this lesson, quoi is in fact a direct object pronoun, not an interrogative pronoun.  In the sentence "Il ne sait pas quoi faire," quoi is the direct object of sait.  And in Wladuszka's native Polish (and other Slavic languages), the direct object is rendered in the accusative case.  So Wladuszka is on the right track, even though English and Romance languages don't decline their nouns with grammatical case endings.

Wladuszka asked:View original

So basically, "quoi" is accusative case, right?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

BlakeC1Kwiziq community member

Any relation to complete/incomplete clauses?

It seems to me that qui/ce qui are used when the following close is incomplete, and that que/ce que are used when the following close is complete. Is that true?
Asked 11 months ago
BlakeC1Kwiziq community member
Sub complete/incomplete with independent/dependent. It's been a while since I've taken middle school English!
BlakeC1Kwiziq community member
Also sub "close" for "clause." I really wish I could edit messages here!
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Blake, I think you got it!

If the relative pronoun (qui/que) refers to an object or idea which is not meantioned in the sentence, you need ce qui/ce qui. If the target of the relative pronoun is part of the same sentence, qui/que suffices.

J'aime voir des films, qui me plaisent. -- I like to see movies, which I like (which-->movies).
J'aime voir des films, ce qui me plaît. -- I like to see movies, (a fact) which I like

Any relation to complete/incomplete clauses?

It seems to me that qui/ce qui are used when the following close is incomplete, and that que/ce que are used when the following close is complete. Is that true?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

BillC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Construction correct?

Bonjour!

Is the below sentence correct in terms of usage of que/qui vs ce que/ce qui?

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon qu'est attaché à mon appartement.  

For some reason the "qu'est" doesn't look right to me but i dont know why.  If any other errors, appreciate the correction on those as well.

Merci d'avance!

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer
It should be ... qui est attaché... since the relative pronoun functions as the subject of the relative clause.
BillC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thanks for the reply.  My confusion is that in my sentence, I thought "Je" was the subject and "le balcon" was either an object or something else.  Any insight on that or link reference you have that could help me understand would be appreciated.  Merci!
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Je is the subject of the main clause and qui is the subject of the subordinate close. 

Je m'assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon. Il est attaché à mon appartement.

The second sentence gets attached to the first one by using a relative pronoun (qui), that stands in for the subject (it). 

BillC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thank you.

Are the below two sentences correct uses of "que" & "ce qui"?

Je m'assieds dans une chaise que j'ai acheté au magasin

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon, ce qui je trouve relaxant.

BillC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I see that i'm wrong.  To follow the lesson above, it should be the following?

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon, ce que je trouve relaxant

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Absolutely correct. I think you got it. 
BillC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Merci pour votre aide!

Construction correct?

Bonjour!

Is the below sentence correct in terms of usage of que/qui vs ce que/ce qui?

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon qu'est attaché à mon appartement.  

For some reason the "qu'est" doesn't look right to me but i dont know why.  If any other errors, appreciate the correction on those as well.

Merci d'avance!

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

MarnieC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Et la différence entre lequel et ce que? Both refer to previous thought/action...

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Marnie,

Not sure about your question , can you add some context?

MarnieC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
It came from a lesson ....but i’ve Progressed and found the more advanced lesson which answered my question thank you Cécile!

Et la différence entre lequel et ce que? Both refer to previous thought/action...

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

PaulC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Qui and ce qui

"Je ne sais pas qui lui plaît" and "Je ne sais pas ce qui lui plaît".

Does the "ce" change the meaning from who(m) to what?

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Hi Paul, I see you've been pretty active over the weekend. Great! :)

Je ne sais pas qui lui plaît. -- I don't know whom he likes.
Je ne sais pas ce qui lui plaît. -- I don't know what he likes.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Qui and ce qui

"Je ne sais pas qui lui plaît" and "Je ne sais pas ce qui lui plaît".

Does the "ce" change the meaning from who(m) to what?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

DianaA1Kwiziq community member

Quoi also means what...

How do you know when to use Quoi in a situation where ce qui and ce que is present.
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Diana ! "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.) I hope that's helpful!
DianaA1Kwiziq community member
Yes, it is. Mille fois merci
IenB1Kwiziq community member

Then how is it possible that a French consumer's magazine is called Que Choisir?

I always thought this meant 'what to choose', but if we follow the rule it should be 'quoi choisir'. Right?

Quoi also means what...

How do you know when to use Quoi in a situation where ce qui and ce que is present.

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

JoyanceB2Kwiziq community member

Along the lines of the "ce que" versus "quel" question...

Along the lines of the "ce que" versus "que" question, must the question "Ce qui fait peur ici?" always begin with "ce que" because the answer is unknown (not mentioned previously?) even though it refers to a noun and not a phrase/sentence? If so, when can a question begin with Quel? Only if the answer was already mentioned?
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Joyance !

First of all, Ce qui fait peur ici ? is not correct, because as you need to have the element referred to by ce qui / ce que (what, which) mentioned in the same sentence.

Therefore, to ask "What/Who is scary here?", you will use the interrogative pronoun Que or Qui, as such:
Qu'est-ce qui fait peur ici ?  (for undetermined)
Qui fait peur ici ?    (for a person)

To which you could answer:
Ce qui fait peur ici, c'est qu'il fait noir.    (What is scary here is that it's dark.)

As for Quel?, it is used in questions where a specific choice is presented: it means "what" in the sense of "which (one)?" here.
E.g. Quelle chose fait peur ?  (What thing is scary?)
       Lequel fait peur ?   (Which one is scary?)

I hope that's helpful.

Ly fenC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Hello, Can we also use "quoi"? like "de quoi fait peur ici?" Thanks in advance.

Along the lines of the "ce que" versus "quel" question...

Along the lines of the "ce que" versus "que" question, must the question "Ce qui fait peur ici?" always begin with "ce que" because the answer is unknown (not mentioned previously?) even though it refers to a noun and not a phrase/sentence? If so, when can a question begin with Quel? Only if the answer was already mentioned?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

KateB2Kwiziq community member

Ce que / Ce qui instead of Que or Qui alone.

Hello. I think I understand when to use ce qui instead of ce que and vice versa, but I can't find the lesson that explains when to use ce que / ce qui instead of que or qui alone. Thanks for any help!
Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq team member
Bonjour Kate, We don't currently have a lesson that specifically addresses when to use French relative pronouns (que / qui) vs when to use indefinite relative pronouns (ce que / ce qui). The difference is straightforward: you need relative pronouns when there is an antecedent - something specific that the pronoun refers back to: J'ai mangé du pain. Le pain que j'ai mangé était bon. You need indefinite relative pronouns when there is no antecedent, when the thing is unknown or unspecified: Ce que j'ai mangé était bon. I hope this helps! :-)
KateB2Kwiziq community member
Thanks so much for the reply. Yes that seems clear. Will now try to apply it!
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Kate ! 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 ...". e.g. La fille que je regarde. (The girl whom[m]/that I'm watching.) e.g. Je fais ce que je veux. (I do what I want.) 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". e.g. Les gens que je rencontre ... (The people which I meet...) Here "que" refers to "people" e.g. 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. I hope that’s helpful!

Ce que / Ce qui instead of Que or Qui alone.

Hello. I think I understand when to use ce qui instead of ce que and vice versa, but I can't find the lesson that explains when to use ce que / ce qui instead of que or qui alone. Thanks for any help!

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Thinking...