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Using de qui, dont, duquel with prepositional verbs with "de" = of/about whom, of/about which

Here's how you introduce a relative clause including a prepositional verb or verbal expression with of/about in English:

The person about whom I'm talking is coming later.
The person (whom) I'm talking about is coming later.

In French, not only is the structure different, but you also have different relative pronouns (dontde quiduquel) available to introduce relative clauses with prepositional verbs or verbal expressions with de*
Let's learn when to use which.


First of all, note that

unlike in English, you can never have deduquel or dont at the end of the clause in French, nor can you separate de qui or de laquelle.
The boy 
whom I'm speaking of

-> You cannot say any of these:
Le garçon qui je parle de
Le garçon je parle duquel
Le garçon je parle dont 
La fille laquelle
 je parle de

Now let's have a look at our different pronouns.

Dont = of/about which and of/about whom

Le garçon dont tu parles est très gentil.The boy (whom) you are speaking of is very nice.
The boy of whom you are speaking is very nice.

Les chaussures dont tu as besoin sont dans le placard.The shoes you need are in the cupboard.
lit. The shoes of which you're in need are in the cupboard.

Le chat dont ils ont peur est le tien.The cat (which) they are scared of is yours.

Voici ma dernière création, dont je suis très fier.Here's my latest creation, which I'm very proud of.

Dont is the best option to introduce relative clauses with prepositional verbs or verbal expressions with de*, for both people and inanimate objects

 

De qui = of/about whom

Le garçon de qui tu parles est très gentil.The boy (whom) you are speaking of is very nice.
The boy of whom you are speaking is very nice.

La sorcière de qui il a peur habite ici.The witch (whom) he is scared of lives here.
The witch of whom he is scared lives here.

De qui is also an acceptable option, though generally less elegant than dont, and it applies exclusively to people.
   

Duquel, de laquelle, desquel(le)s of/about whom and of/about which

In the context of relative clauses with prepositional verbs or verbal expressions with de*, using duquel, etc is considered archaic and over-formal compared to the more colloquial dont.

However, there's one case where you can favour duquel, etc and that is when using dont is ambiguous, and you want to be specific as to who/what is being referred to.
(Note that you can still use dont or de qui (people only) in such cases.)

La fille d'Henri, de laquelle je t'ai parlé, vient d'emménager à Genève.Henri's daughter, whom I told you about, just moved to Geneva.
-> Here dont could refer to either Henri or his daughter, whereas de laquelle (feminine) removes all ambiguity.

Note that the contracted forms of de + quel (duquel / de laquelle / desquels / desquelles) agree in gender and number with the object they refer to. 

 

* Here's a non-exhaustive list of French prepositional verbs and verbal expressions with de:

parler de, se souvenir de, avoir peur de, être fier de, avoir besoin de, avoir envie de, se servir de, s'occuper de, avoir conscience de ...

 

See also Dont = Whose, Dont = Including, [quantity] of which and Using duquel, de laquelle etc with prepositional phrases with "de"

 

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Examples and resources

La sorcière de qui il a peur habite ici.The witch (whom) he is scared of lives here.
The witch of whom he is scared lives here.
La fille d'Henri, de laquelle je t'ai parlé, vient d'emménager à Genève.Henri's daughter, whom I told you about, just moved to Geneva.
Le garçon dont tu parles est très gentil.The boy (whom) you are speaking of is very nice.
The boy of whom you are speaking is very nice.
Les enfants de Michel, desquels j'ai parlé hier, sont turbulents.Michel's children, (whom) I talked about yesterday, are boisterous.
Les chaussures dont tu as besoin sont dans le placard.The shoes you need are in the cupboard.
lit. The shoes of which you're in need are in the cupboard.
Voici ma dernière création, dont je suis très fier.Here's my latest creation, which I'm very proud of.
Ce sont les enfants dont ma nounou s’occupe.These are the children (whom) my nanny is taking care of.
Je devine le passé d'une femme à la façon dont elle tient ses cigarettes, et l'avenir d'un homme à la façon dont il tient la boisson.
(Sacha Guitry)
I guess a woman's past from the way she holds her cigarettes, and a man's future from the way he holds his drink/liquor.
(Sacha Guitry)
Le chat dont ils ont peur est le tien.The cat (which) they are scared of is yours.
La sorcière dont il a peur habite ici.The witch (whom) he is scared of lives here.
The witch of whom he is scared lives here.
Le garçon de qui tu parles est très gentil.The boy (whom) you are speaking of is very nice.
The boy of whom you are speaking is very nice.
Thinking...