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 is smelling.
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.
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: While the relative pronoun que is optional in English (you could say the room we rented), in French it cannot be omitted: you cannot say la chambre nous avons louée.
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