Qui = Who, which, that (relative pronouns)

Look at these sentences using qui:

Il a mangé une pizza qui avait une pâte fine.
He ate a pizza which/that had a thin crust.


Nous étudions un livre qui s'appelle "Moby Dick".
We are studying a book which/that is called "Moby Dick".


Marie connaît Julien qui joue de la guitare.
Marie knows Julien who plays guitar.


Il adore les restaurants qui servent de la cuisine italienne.
He loves the restaurants which serve Italian food.

NOTE that qui is used to express both singular and plural which/who, just like in English. 

Knowing when to use qui and when to use que can be tricky for English speakers, as we often mistakenly think qui only means who, but it can be used to refer to inanimate objects as well as people!

How to know when to use qui (instead of que) in French

There's an easy pattern to spot when deciding between qui and que to say who, that orwhich:

Use qui when the following word is a verb or reflexive pronoun (e.g. me, te, se, lui, le, la, nous, vous, leur, les, etc) , and use que if following word is a noun (thing or person).

In grammar jargon, we use qui when it's the subject of the verb, and que when it's the object of the verb.
If subjects, verbs and objects confuse you watch the cartoon video explaining them. They're easier than they sound. 
Constrast this with: Que = Whom, which, that (relative pronouns)

Replacing objects and people with qui

Here are examples of sentences being changed so that people and objects are replaced with relative pronouns in both French and English: 

Il a mangé une pizza. Cette pizza avait une pâte fine. -> Il a mangé une pizza qui avait une pâte fine.
He ate a pizza. This pizza had a thin crust. -> He ate a pizza that had a thin crust.
 
Je lis un livre. Ce livre s'appelle "Orgueil et Préjugés". -> Je lis un livre qui s'appelle "Orgueil et Préjugés".
I'm reading a book. A book is called "Pride and Prejudice" -> I'm reading a book which/that is called "Pride and Prejudice".
 
Marie connaît Julien. Julien joue de la guitare. -> Marie connaît Julien qui joue de la guitare.
Marie knows Julien. Julien plays guitar. -> Marie knows Julien who plays guitar.

ATTENTION:

Qui NEVER becomes qu' in front of a vowel or mute h: only the letter e can be omitted for pronunciation in this case! 

See also the more advanced lessons:

Prepositions + qui, lequel, laquelle, etc : on what, behind whom, beside which (relative pronouns)

À + qui, auquel, à laquelle = to whom, what, which (relative pronouns)

De + qui, duquel, de laquelle, dont = Of/about whom (relative pronouns)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Ces fleurs, qui sont des tournesols, poussent bien ici.
These flowers, which are sunflowers, grow well here.


Elle a un collier qui appartenait à sa grand-mère.
She has a necklace which/that belonged to her grandmother.




J'aime le chocolat qui vient de Suisse.
I like chocolate which/that comes from Switzerland.


Nous étudions un livre qui s'appelle "Moby Dick".
We are studying a book which/that is called "Moby Dick".


Subject, verbs and objects (direct and indirect) MADE EASY!


Marie connaît Julien qui joue de la guitare.
Marie knows Julien who plays guitar.


Vive le vent d'hiver, 
Qui s'en va sifflant, soufflant,  
Dans les grands sapins verts, oh !

Long live the winter wind, 
that goes whistling, blowing, 
through the big green pine trees, oh!


Il adore les restaurants qui servent de la cuisine italienne.
He loves the restaurants which serve Italian food.


Il a mangé une pizza qui avait une pâte fine.
He ate a pizza which/that had a thin crust.


Et tout là-haut le vent,
Qui siffle dans les branches...

And all above the wind,
Which whistles in the branches...


Tu as reçu une lettre qui est de ta cousine.
You received a letter which/that is from your cousin.


Je lis un livre qui s'appelle "Orgueil et Préjugés".
I'm reading a book which/that is called "Pride and Prejudice".


Q&A

Steven

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2018

2 replies

I can’t work out when it is “ce qui/ce que” or “qui/que”… I.e. when does “Ce” go in front of qui/que? Thank you

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2018

2/07/18

Hi Steven, I'll give it a shot.

The pronoun "ce" is used whenever the following relative pronoun (qui or que) refers to an idea that is not specifically mentioned in the same sentence. For example:

Natalie a un livre qui parle de Napoléon. -- Natalie has a book which talk about Napoleon.
Dans ce livre, elle trouve ce qui l'intéresse. -- In that book she finds what interests her.
Elle y apprend ce que Napoléon a fait. -- She learns from it, what Napoleon did.

The first sentence uses "qui" as a relative pronoun which refers to "un livre".

The second sentence uses "ce qui", which refers to a general idea of what interests her. There is no clear target in the sentence to which a mere "qui" could refer. It is "ce qui" because that is the subject of the sentence.

The third sentence uses "ce que" because, again, it referes to a general idea, namely that which Napoleon did. Also, it is the direct object ot the sentence, hence "ce que" instead of "ce qui".

As a rough guideline you can use "ce qui/ce que" whenever you would use "what" in English. If you can use "which", itis "qui/que".

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Steven

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2018

2/07/18

 I get it!… And thanks for the little tip at the end, I’ll try it out…Steve 

DeAnna

Kwiziq community member

14 May 2018

2 replies

Agreement with Qui as a relative pronoun

In the sentence, "C'est moi qui parle au prof '', does the verb agree with qui (usually 3rd person singular) or with what ''qui '' represents?  Ex:  Ce sont nous qui parle au prof .... ou .... Ce sont nous qui parlent au prof .... ?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

15 May 2018

15/05/18

Hi Deanna,

yes, the relative pronoun always replaces the noun it relates to. Hence, if "qui" refers to a plural noun, the verb in the subordinate clause needs to be in plural as well.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

16 May 2018

16/05/18

Hi Deanna,

As Chris says the verb will agree with the preceeding noun. e.g.

C'est vous qui êtes sur la liste des candidats?

C'est nous qui parlons ...

C'est moi qui suis malade...

Hope this helps!

Arndís

Kwiziq community member

30 April 2018

0 replies

This is more of a comment than a question:

I found it a bit frustrating that the quiz is about something other than what was just taught above. The lesson is about when to use QUI and not QUE, but the quiz requires me to also know when to use QUI and when to use CE QUI, which is taught elsewhere. 

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

25 March 2018

5 replies

Qui or Que before Tu?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

25 March 2018

25/03/18

Please post your question in a bit more detail here. -- Chris.

Alan

Kwiziq community member

25 March 2018

25/03/18

Que. See https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/my-languages/french/view/735

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).

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2018

26/03/18

Hi CrystalMaiden/Alan,

The words "que" or "qui" perform different functions: they can be either interrogative pronouns or relative pronouns. Depending on how they are used, they  behave a bit differently.

First their interrogative function:

Qui se trouve dans la chambre? -- Who is in the room?
Que se trouve dans la chambre? -- What is in the room?
Qui sent la chocolate? -- Who smells like chocolate?
Que sent la chocolate? -- What smells like chocolate?

Here "qui" is for persons and "que" for inanimate objects. They always function as the subject of the sentence and behave in their roles very much like the English "who" and "what".

Then there is their functions as relative pronouns. And whether you use "que" or "qui" doesn't depend on whether it concerns a person or an object. Their use is determined by whether it represents the subject (nominative) or the direct object (accusative) of the subordinate clause.

C'est le pull qui me va bien. -- It is the sweater which suits me.
C'est Sabine, qui m'aime. -- It is Sabine who loves me

In both cases you use "qui" because in both instances it functions as the subject in the subordinate clauses.

C'est Sabine, que j'aime. -- It is Sabine whom I love.
Le pull, que tu as acheté, me plaît. -- I like the sweather, which you bought.

Here you use "que" for Sabine as well as the sweater because "que" represents the direct object in the subordinate clause. The correspondingt subjects are "je" and "tu", respectively. Hence the rule: if you can find a subject in the subordinate clause then you will need "que" (as there can't be multiple independent subjects in a clause).

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Alan

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2018

26/03/18

Hi Chris,

Yes I know, but using "que" rather than "qui" before a noun or non-reflexive pronoun is a quick tip given on the website. The point is that the noun/pronoun that follows must be the subject of a verb, and so the thing referred to by "que" will presumably be the object and so needs "que" rather than "qui". There is a similar quick tip for "qui" which I think CrystalMaiden was referring to.

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

4 May 2018

4/05/18

By this point I've gotten the hang of it. Also, the reason my question was so short is probably that I ran into the word limit through a glitch multiple times and was barely able to post the question, so I was deleting most of the question just to post it.

Suzanne

Kwiziq community member

12 February 2018

1 reply

lequel

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 February 2018

19/02/18

Is there a question you would like tomask?

-- Chris. 

K

Kwiziq community member

18 January 2018

2 replies

It would be helpful if the lesson contrasted qui and ce qui. Thank you, K

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

18 January 2018

18/01/18

Hi K - if you click on the pronom relatif links in the lesson you''ll see all the lessons we have on that topic, including ce qui and ce que.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 January 2018

18/01/18

In a nutshell: you use "qui" (=which/what) as the subject of a subordinate clause to refer to a noun in the main clause. If there is no clear target in the main clause to which "qui" can refer, you use "ce qui" (=that which). 1) Ce qui m'interesse, c'est la musique. -- What interests me is music. 2) La musique, qui m'interesse, est le jazz. -- The music, which interests, me is jazz. In the first example the "what" has no clear target in the main clause, hence "ce qui" is used in French. In the second example, "qui" refers directly to "music" and therefore you can use it by itself. Greetings, -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Lisa

Kwiziq community member

26 March 2017

1 reply

Qui or que?

In the example above "...lui souffle la romance/qu'il chantait petit enfant, oh!" Isn't the "qu" there standing for que, not qui? Thank you in advance.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

27 March 2017

27/03/17

Bonjour Lisa ! Well spotted! It's indeed a "que" example here, thank you so much for letting us know! I've now moved here to the relevant lesson! Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

Joakim

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2016

1 reply

Omit

"Qui NEVER become qu' in front of a vowel or mute h: only the letter 'e' can be omitted for pronunciation" Well, aren't we omitting an 'i' for pronounciation in the expression "s'il vous plaît" ?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

2 November 2016

2/11/16

Bonjour Joakim ! Yes, you're right: the sentence referred to the specific case we were treating here. I've added "in this case" to remove ambiguity :) Merci et à bientôt !

Victoria

Kwiziq community member

1 April 2016

2 replies

Extra Words - Unnecessary?

A sentence like "Tu as reçu une lettre qui est de ta cousine." seems a little wordy. Is it correct (or incorrect) to just say "Tu as reçu une lettre de ta cousine." ? Merci beaucoup!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

1 April 2016

1/04/16

Bonjour Victoria ! Yes, of course, your sentence "Tu as reçu une lettre de ta cousine." is absolutely correct, and less wordy I agree! Here we wanted to demonstrate the use of "qui", hence the "wordy" sentence ;) A bientôt !

Victoria

Kwiziq community member

1 April 2016

1/04/16

Merci Aurélie! Sometimes I'm not certain when I should opt for using more or less wordy constructions. So this is extremely helpful to see the flexibility in correct usage. Merci à nouveau!

mark

Kwiziq community member

31 January 2016

1 reply

I'd like to know why we use qui in the following sentence?

I know a man with whom I have worked which becomes in french: je connais un homme avec qui j'ai travaillé

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

1 February 2016

1/02/16

Bonjour Mark, Here is a slightly different case, which is the use of whom/which when preceded by a preposition: "avec qui". Please have a look at the matching lesson, and let us know if you have questions: https://www.french-test.com/revision/grammar/prepositions-qui-lequel-laquelle-on-what-behind-whom-beside-which-etc-relative-pronouns A bientôt !
I'll be right with you...