Que = Whom, which, that (relative pronouns)

Look at these sentences using que:

La femme que je dessine.
The woman whom I am drawing

Les fleurs que Paul sent.
The flowers which/that Paul smells.

Le bébé joue avec la peluche que sa maman adore.
The baby is playing with the cuddly toy that his mum loves. 

Knowing when to use qui and when to use que can be tricky for English speakers, as we often mistakenly think que only means that or which but it can also mean who or whom.

How to know when to use que (instead of qui) in French

Fortunately, there's an easy pattern to spot:

use que when the word that follows is (or represents) a person or thing/s, such as Cécile, je, tu, il, etc. (as opposed to qui when the word that follows is a verb).
In grammar jargon, que is an object pronoun - que replaces the object of the verb.
If subjects, verbs and objects confuse you watch the cartoon video explaining them. They're easier than they sound. 
Contrast this with: Qui = Who, which, that (relative pronouns)

Replacing objects and people with que

Here are examples of sentences being changed so that people and objects are replaced with relative pronouns in both French and English:

Je dessine la femme -> La femme que je dessine.
I am drawing the woman -> The woman whom I am drawing.
 
Paul sent les fleurs -> Les fleurs que Paul sent.
Paul smells the flowers -> The flowers which/that Paul smells.
 
Le bébé joue avec la peluche. Sa maman adore cette peluche. -> Le bébé joue avec la peluche que sa maman adore.
The baby is playing with the cuddly toy. His mum loves this cuddly toy. -> The baby is playing with the cuddly toy that his mum loves.
Note: When the relative pronoun que is optional in English (you could say the room we rented), in French it cannot be omittedyou cannot say la chambre nous avons louée.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources



Marie a écrit une lettre qu'elle a envoyée à Paul.
Marie wrote a letter which/that she sent to Paul.


Subject, verbs and objects (direct and indirect) MADE EASY!


Nous aimons la chambre d'hôtel que nous avons louée.
We like the hotel room which/that we rented. 


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


Le bébé joue avec la peluche que sa maman adore.
The baby is playing with the cuddly toy that his mum loves. 


Je mange une pizza que j'ai achetée en Italie.
I'm eating a pizza which/that I bought in Italy.


Les choses que je fais sont intéressantes.
The things that I do are interesting.


Eve sort avec Cyril qu'elle a rencontré à une fête.
Eve is going out with Cyril whom she met at a party.


La femme que je dessine.
The woman whom I am drawing


...Lui souffle la romance, 
Qu'il chantait petit enfant, oh !

...Whispers to him the (romantic) song, 
That he used to sing (as a) young child, oh!


Les fleurs que Paul sent.
The flowers which/that Paul smells.


Q&A

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

3 December 2018

10 replies

Doubt in qui/que

Bonjour Cécile,

In the sentence- 

"Les profs qui nous  accompagnent sont très sympas."

Madame,

Is it correct to use "que/qui" as qui is either followed by a verb or a reflexive pronoun. And que is followed by a noun or subject pronoun.

Here nous is a subject pronoun,then why 'qui' is used?

Merci d'avance.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

3 December 2018

3/12/18

Qui replaces the subject in the relative clause. Therefore it is qui and not que. Que replaces the direct object. Incidentally, nous is the direct object.

Les profts, qui nous accompagnent sont très sympas.
Les profs, que j'ai rencontrés, sont très sympas.

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2018

4/12/18

Still unable to understand 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 December 2018

4/12/18

Hi Varsha,

In that sentence -

Les profs (subject) qui (relative pronounaccompagnent (verb) nous (direct object pronoun) ....

Nous is  an object pronoun but as it is placed before the verb it looks like a subject pronoun.

If we change the pronoun from us to them -

Les profs qui les accompagnent sont très sympas. ( les = them) 

would that sentence make it clearer ?

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2018

4/12/18

So qui is correct or que?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 December 2018

4/12/18

qui is correct...

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2018

4/12/18

Bonjour Madame,

After re-reading the text I have come to the following conclusion-

1.Qui replaces the subject of the sentence (as in the sentence suggested by me)

2.Que replaces the object of the sentence 

(Les profs que j'ai rencontrés, sont très sympas)which means

The professors whom I recognised are very kind.

(Here whom is the pronoun replacing professors used in the sense of an object )

The real sentence would have been-

J'ai rencontrés les très sympas profs.

Am I correct? Please verify.

Merci d'avance.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2018

4/12/18

Yes, that's absolutely correct. Qui-->subject, que-->direct object.

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2018

5/12/18

Merci Chris.

Just want Madame Cécile to verify too.

I would be really grateful 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

5 December 2018

5/12/18

Hi Varsha,

You cannot say that 'qui' or 'que' replace any pronouns. They are link words to connect clauses.

Qui is used for subject pronouns and Que is used for object pronouns.

In the sentence you use :

Les profs que j'ai rencontrés sont très sympas The teachers (that) I met are very friendly.

It has to be 'que' because you will never have, qui je , (you will have 'qui me') and that is why I changed the pronoun from you to them as 'vous' and 'nous' can be both object and subject pronouns, which can create confusion.

If you look at my answer to Arndís in the same lesson, I give some 'rules of thumb' to avoid these (common) mistakes. The rules apply to 'ce qui' and 'ce que' too.

You could say-  "J'ai rencontré des profs très sympas" I met really friendly teachers

But it is slightly different to the one using a relative pronoun.

Hope this helps!

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2018

5/12/18

Merci Madame Cécile 

The confusing topic is now on my tips ; well clear.

Arndis

Kwiziq community member

30 October 2018

3 replies

Que or ce qui

I'm struggling with the difference in rules between ce que / que and ce qui / qui. Is it correctly understood that we use either "ce que" or "qui" when followed by an object (so the rule is different with/without the ce, unlike with verbs and reflexive pronounse)? Are these two sentences correct, "sa maman" being an object here? 

Tu ne devineras jamais ce qui sa maman a fait! 

Le bébé joue avec la peluche que sa maman adore. 

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

31 October 2018

31/10/18

Hi Arndís,

Relative pronouns are complicated so I can understand your frustration...

I will try and make them easier for you to use with some Rules of Thumb designed to help -

Qui/Ce qui

They will be  both followed by a verb (sometimes by ne) , they will certainly never be followed by a subject pronoun or the name of a person ( je /tu/ il/elle/on , ils ,elles, Marie, Papa etc..)

e.g.

C'est elle qui va aller en courses It's her who is going to go shopping

Les enfants qui jouent dans le parc sont les miens = The children who are playing in the parc are mine

Je me demande ce qui va arriver = I wonder what is going to happen

You will however find object pronouns sometimes after qui/ce qui:

Je fais ce qui me plaît! = I do what I like

Elle a choisi cette tenue, ce qui lui va très bien = She's chosen this outfit, which suits her very well

C'est ce qui *vous * attire chez lui? Is that what attracts you to him ?

*vous * note here is an object pronoun.

Also note, *qui/ce qui cannot be elided .

Que /Ce que 

These relative pronouns will be followed by subject pronouns, names ...:

e.g.

L'homme que vous voyez devant la Poste est mon cousin = The man (that) you see in front of the Post Office is my cousin

Le train qu'il a manqué est parti en avance = The  train (that) he missed, left early

C'est ce que m'a dit Martin That's what Martin told me

C'est Daniel qu'elle a vraiment aimé It is Daniel that she really loved

Je vais vous dire ce qu'on va faire = I'll tell you what we are going to do

Note:  Que/ce que can be elided to, qu'/ce qu' 

C'est ce que son mari a décidé de faireThat's what her husband decided to do 

This is why your first sentence is incorrect as it should be - 

Tu ne devineras jamais ce que sa maman a fait !

Hope this helps!

 

 

Varsha

Kwiziq community member

5 December 2018

5/12/18

Merci Madame Cécile,

J'ai compris les règles.

Michelle

Kwiziq community member

15 December 2018

15/12/18

I still don't understand when to use ce que or ce qui instead of just que or qui.

"Elle a choisi cette tenue, ce qui lui va très bien" refers to a whole idea rather than just "the outfit" and "outfit" is not an aforementioned noun? 

At first I figured that I have to base it on whether you get one thing or a whole concept before ce que/ce qui but then came "C'est ce que son mari décidé de faire". Now it makes sense is that case because it's not about "the husband" but it makes "Elle a choisi cette tenue, ce qui lui va très bien" even more confusing. 

Stewart

Kwiziq community member

13 May 2018

1 reply

Apology

The above question should have been inserted into the lesson called 'à + qui, auquel, à laquuelle = to whom, what, which, (relative pronouns)'. I have now inserted it to the correct lesson page.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

14 May 2018

14/05/18

Hi Stewart,

Answer in your previous question...

Stewart

Kwiziq community member

13 May 2018

1 reply

Use of 'auquel' / 'à qui' instead of 'que'

In the lesson ‘Que = Whom, which, that (relative pronouns)’ an example sentence is given as:

‘La femme que je dessine’

An example sentence from this lesson is: ‘Le chat, auquel tu as fait peur’ OR ‘Le chat, à qui tu as fait peur’ 

I’m struggling to understand why is Le chat, que tu as fait peur’ is not used?

Thanks

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

14 May 2018

14/05/18

Hi Stewart,

The sentence  'Le chat que tu as fait peur' is incorrect because the 'à' is missing in it.

The expression is 'faire peur à  quelqu'un' so the only pronouns you can use are 'auquel'  or 'à qui' .

In the case of 'La femme que je dessine' , the verb is 'dessiner quelque chose/ quelqu'un, so the object is direct only requiring 'que'.

Hope this helps!

Michael

Kwiziq community member

1 February 2018

2 replies

why is the subjunctive not used in the example - Les fleurs que Paul sent?

Stephen

Kwiziq community member

1 February 2018

1/02/18

I think because the 'que' refers to the flowers...the noun... and not the rest of the sentence/the following phrase...but I stand to be corrected )))

Chris

Kwiziq community member

1 February 2018

1/02/18

Stephen is correct. "Que" in this sentence is a relative pronoun not a subjunction. To tell the difference, ask yourself the question if "que" refers to something in the sentence. In the case "Les fleurs que Paul sent", it refers to "les fleurs". In these cases it doesn't mandate the subjunctive (with some very specific exceptions).

Even if "que" is used as a subjunction it doesn't necessarily and always require the subjunctive (otherwise French would be too easy ;)). For example:

1) Je vois la valise que tu as apportée. -- "Que" is a relative pronoun referring to "la valise".
2) Je sais que tu seras en retard. -- "Que" is a subjunction but no subjunctive required.
3) Je doute qu'il soit en retard. -- "Que" is again a subjunction but in this case the subjunctive is correct.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Murat

Kwiziq community member

17 November 2017

3 replies

les accords

"Je mange une pizza que j'ai achetée en Italie." Je pense qu'il y a un problème dans cette phrase. il y a un "e" supplémentaire à la fin de "j'ai acheté"

Ron

Kwiziq community member

17 November 2017

17/11/17

Bonjour Murat, You are correct that there are certain phrases that follow «que» where there is an accord with the subject in the main clause; it is named the CASE of the subordinate clause with que and the lesson follows: https://french.kwiziq.com/my-languages/french/view/429 There seems to be very specific cases where this is applicable. J'espère que cela vous aiderait. Ron (un locuteur non-natif)

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 November 2017

17/11/17

Here is the rule: when the object of a sentence comes before the participe passé, the participe is matched to the object. Let's look at the example you cite: Je mange une pizza, que j'achetée en Italie. Here, "que" is the stand-in for pizza. It also precedes the participe "achetée". Hence achetée needs to be in the same number (singular, since only one pizza) and gender (feminine, since it is "la pizza"). Another example: Les bonbons que j'ai goutés avaient bons. Here "que" stands for "les bonbons", which are masculin plural. Hence "goutés" needs to match that. -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

10 April 2018

10/04/18

Bonjour Murat,

Non il n'y a pas d'erreur.

Dans le cas des accords de participes passés avec l'auxiliaire Avoir:

Ils s'accordent avec le complément d'objet direct ( COD) qu'ils représentent seulement quand il est placé devant  le verbe.

Donc:

j'ai acheté une pizza en Italie, mais

La pizza que j'ai achetée n'était pas très bonne.

J'ai acheté des bonbons en Italie, mais 

Les bonbons que j'ai achetés en Italie n'étaient pas très bons.

 

Dorothy

Kwiziq community member

9 May 2017

1 reply

how to know when to use ce que vs que

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

10 May 2017

10/05/17

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