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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

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




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!


Q&A

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 doubte 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://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.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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