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 Forum 9 questions, 28 answers

RenitaB2Kwiziq community member

What if direct object pronoun follows que ?

In the sentence "Fiona est la fille que nous avons invitée" - Can it also be translated that Fiona is the girl who invited us (nous as us)?

Please help

Asked 3 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

Fiona est la fille que nous avons invitée. — Fiona is the girl whom we invited. 

Fiona est la fille qui nous a invités. — Fiona is the girl who invited us.

 

What if direct object pronoun follows que ?

In the sentence "Fiona est la fille que nous avons invitée" - Can it also be translated that Fiona is the girl who invited us (nous as us)?

Please help

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AnnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Bonjour Ann, Thank you for writing in to support. You wrote: "Shouldn't J'aime la pizza don't tu manges work also? answer was que...Tu manges de la

Asked 5 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Ann,

You cannot say -

La pizza dont tu manges ...

The verb manger is followed by a direct object, so it will be -

la pizza que tu manges ...

But if you said -

La pizza dont tu parles ...

dont would be correct because the verb is -


AnnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

The thing that confused me is that we say manger de la pizza and I reasoned dont is used in such instances where de is used. In manges de la pizza, de la means some whereas in parle de it means of making pizza an object of a preposition. Is that the difference? 

Bonjour Ann, Thank you for writing in to support. You wrote: "Shouldn't J'aime la pizza don't tu manges work also? answer was que...Tu manges de la

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ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

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.

Asked 10 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

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.

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Still unable to understand 
CécileKwiziq team member

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 ?

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
So qui is correct or que?
CécileKwiziq team member
qui is correct...
ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

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.

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Yes, that's absolutely correct. Qui-->subject, que-->direct object.
ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Merci Chris.

Just want Madame Cécile to verify too.

I would be really grateful 

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Merci Madame Cécile 

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

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.

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ArndisA2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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. 

Asked 11 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

 

 

ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Merci Madame Cécile,

J'ai compris les règles.

MichelleC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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. 

LauraKwiziq team member

Bonjour Michelle,

Ce que / ce qui are indefinite, so you use them when you're not replacing something specific, a concrete item.

L'animal qui habite ici vs Ce qui habite ici. In the former, qui replaces l'animal, in the latter, ce qui replaces nothing.

To be honest, I'm not sure about the tenue example; I would just say qui.

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Michelle,

In the example of the outfit -

There is a difference in meaning between: 

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

That's her own opinion (elle - whoever she is).

In the example -

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

introduces another person stating the fact that it suits her. 

In the following lesson , there is a similar example but suing ce que  -

https://french.kwiziq.com/revision/grammar/ce-que-what-which-relative-pronouns

"J'aime les bananes, ce que tu trouves très intéressant."

Here, you find interesting the fact that I love bananas.

This example is clearer I think because the subjects are different and the problem comes from the fact that 'aller bien' is used like plaire

Hope I have clarified things a little...

 

 

 

 

MichelleC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Thank you Laura and Cécile. Yes, this clarifies things at least to a point. I get it, but yet I don't completely. I'll just have to pay special attention to these phrases and the way they are used when I encounter them and start doing some more tests on here. 

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Michelle,

Another better example may help you -

Elle chante dans une chorale qui lui plaît énormément = She sings in a choir which she loves greatly ( 'which' refers to the choir)

Elle chante dans une chorale, ce qui lui plaît énormément = She sings in a choir which she loves (doing) greatly ('which' refers to the singing) 

Not easy but the important bit is to know when to use 'qui' and 'que' first and then move on to 'ce qui' and 'ce que'... 

 

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. 

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StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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.
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Stewart,

Answer in your previous question...

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.

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StewartC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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

Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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!

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

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MichaelA2Kwiziq community member

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

Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer
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).
StephenC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
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 )))

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

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MuratA2Kwiziq community member

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"
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

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.

 

RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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: Special cases when the past participle agrees (in number & gender) when used with 'avoir' in Le Passé Composé There seems to be very specific cases where this is applicable. J'espère que cela vous aiderait. Ron (un locuteur non-natif)
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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).

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"

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DorothyC1Kwiziq community member

how to know when to use ce que vs que

Asked 2 years ago
GruffKwiziq team member
Hi Dorothy
You can see how to use ce qui and ce que in these lessons: Ce qui (vs ce que) = what, which (relative pronouns)">Ce qui (vs ce que) = what, which (relative pronouns)">Ce qui (vs ce que) = what, which (relative pronouns)">Ce qui (vs ce que) = what, which (relative pronouns)
and
Ce que (vs ce qui) = what, which (relative pronouns)">Ce que (vs ce qui) = what, which (relative pronouns)">Ce que (vs ce qui) = what, which (relative pronouns)">Ce que (vs ce qui) = what, which (relative pronouns)

Hope that helps!

how to know when to use ce que vs que

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