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Relative Pronouns: qui, que, dont

Updated: Jan 16



1. QUI and QUE

QUI and QUE are relative pronouns. They replace a noun.


•They are used to relate two clauses. This means they link two parts of a sentence to avoid repetition.


•They can both mean “which”, “who/whom” or “that”.


Example 1: J'ai un problème. Le problème ne peut pas être résolu.

==> J'ai un problème qui ne peut pas être résolu.

I have a problem that can't be solved

Example 2: Je joue d’un instrument. J’adore l’instrument.

==> Je joue d’un instrument que j’adore.

I play an instrument (that) I love.


Note that in English, the relative pronoun is sometimes omitted. In French, the relative pronoun always needs to be present.


QUI and QUE can also be used to introduce further information about someone or something.

Example: Cet homme, qui a 40 ans, est professeur dans un collège.



What's the difference between QUI and QUE ?


QUI is used when you are replacing the subject of the sentence.

QUE is used when you are replacing the object of the sentence.


Detailed explanation: QUI


Example 1: J'ai un problème. Le problème ne peut pas être résolu.

Step 1: The noun “le problème” is repeated. We want to replace it with a relative pronoun in the second sentence to avoid repetition.

Step 2: In the second sentence: ‘Le problème ne peut pas être résolu’, the noun “problème” is the subject of the verb “peut”.

Step 3: Because we want to replace a subject, we need to use ‘QUI’.

J'ai un problème qui ne peut pas être résolu.


Of course, most of the time, you won't even be thinking about the 2 separate sentences and will simply want to translate the sentence " I have a problem that can't be resolved".

You will therefore need to think fast: subject + qui

Here "that" is preceded by the subject of the verb "can't".


Note that QUI is also used after a preposition such as à, avec or pour to talk about people.

La personne à qui il parle the person he is speaking to

Les enfants pour qui j’ai acheté des bonbons the children I bought sweets for



Detailed explanation: QUE


Example 2: Je joue d’un instrument. J’adore l’instrument.

Step 1: The noun “instrument” is repeated. We want to replace it with a relative pronoun in the second sentence to avoid repetition.

Step 2: In the second sentence: ‘J’adore l’instrument’, the noun “instrument” is the object of the sentence.

Note: je” is the subject of the verb “adore” and the object that I love is “l’instrument”.

Step 3: Because we want to replace an object, we need to use ‘QUE’.

Je joue d’un instrument que j’adore.


Again, most of the time, you won't be thinking about the 2 separate sentences and will simply want to translate the sentence " I am playing an instrument that I love".

You will therefore need to think fast: object+ que

Here "that" is preceded by the object of the verb "love".


Note that QUE changes to QU' when followed by a vowel.


TIP:

Another way to quickly work out if you need to use QUI or QUE is by using the trick:

QUI is followed by a verb

QUE is followed by a pronoun or a noun.


This trick works most of the time, so you could use it if you are having a conversation and need to think fast. However, it does not work when Direct or Indirect Object Pronouns are used in the sentence (C'est l'homme qui nous a menti) or if the word order has been changed (La robe que porte la femme est bleue.)



2. DONT

DONT is also a relative pronoun.


•The relative pronoun DONT is basically the equivalent of QUE for verbs that are followed by DE (i.e: it replaces the preposition de + a person/thing which is the object of the preposition de)


•It can mean: of which, of whom, about whom, about which, from which


•It is used with verbs such as: avoir besoin de, avoir peur de, se méfier de, parler de, être content de…


Example 1: Elle écoute un artiste francophone. Elle parle souvent de cet artiste.

==> Elle écoute un artiste francophone dont elle parle souvent.


DONT can also mean whose/ of which to show possession. In that case it is followed by an article


Example 2: j’ai regardé un film. La musique du film était effrayante.

J’ai regardé un film dont la musique était effrayante.




Recommendation:



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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