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Indefinite Relative Pronouns: ce qui, ce que, ce dont

Before learning about Indefinite Relative Pronouns, you need to understand the Relative Pronouns: qui, que, dont.

"Ce" is an indefinite pronoun (sometimes called a neutral pronoun). When "ce" is used in combination with qui, que or dont, it gives the indefinite relative pronouns: ce qui, ce que or ce dont.

In English, they can be translated as "which", "what" or "that".

Unlike the relative pronouns qui/ que/ dont, the indefinite relative pronouns ce qui/ ce que/ ce dont do not refer to a specific noun already mentioned. In effect, you could think of them as "la chose qui...", "la chose que..." and "la chose dont..." (the thing that...)

What is the difference between ce qui/ ce que/ ce dont?

CE QUI is the subject of the verb which follows it. Example: Il ne sait plus ce qui est bon pour lui.

He no longer knows what is good for him.

CE QUE or CE QU' is used as a direct object. It is generally followed by a subject and a verb. Example: Il peut dire ce qu'il veut, je ne l’écoute pas.

He can say what he wants, I’m not listening to him.

CE DONT is used as the object of the preposition de. Example: Vous ne comprenez pas ce dont j'ai besoin.

You don't understand what I need.

Stressing a point

The construction ce qui / ce que / ce dont + c’est /ce sont can be used to stress a point.

Example: Ce qui est dommage, c'est qu'il ne viendra pas.

What is a pity is that he will not come.

Example: Ce que j'aime, c'est partir à l'étranger What I like is going abroad Example: Ce dont nous avons peur c’est du chien. What we are scared of is the dog.

Referring back to a whole sentence

When used after a comma, ce qui/ ce que/ ce dont refer to a concept or an idea that has just been mentioned.

Example: Elle doit beaucoup réviser pour son examen, ce qui est difficile.

She has to revise a lot for her exam, which is difficult.

In this example, it's not the exam itself that is difficult, but the fact that she has to revise a lot for it.


For French A Level students with any exam board:

Year 1:

Year 2:

Click on the images to check the workbooks out!

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