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French Grammar from RapideFrench.com

Pronouns: Relative Pronouns

In English 'relative pronouns' are the words who, which, whom, whose, where, what, when and that. They are either used to clarify the person or object being referred are to supply more information about them or it. For example which is the relative pronoun in this sentence: This is the book which I like best. There is not a direct correlation between French and English, also in English some are used interchangeably (sometimes wrongly, technically).

FrenchEnglishExamplesTechnical Note
quiwho, whichVoici mon ami qui joue au netball = This is my friend who plays netballqui is followed by a verb, and refers back to a the person in the sentence
quewhom, thatVoici mon ami que je bats au tennis = This is my friend whom I beat at tennisque is followed by a subject and verb, and refers back to the object in the sentence
dontwhose,
of whom,
about whom,
of which
Voici mon ami dont j'ai parlé = This is my friend whom I mentioneddont refers back to things you have been talking about

Note that dont is very similar in usage to que. However with dont there is an implied of e.g. this is my friend of whom I spoke.

FrenchEnglishExamplesTechnical Note
ce quiwhat, that which (subject)je me demande ce qui se passe = I wonder what is happeningce qui is followed by a verb
ce quewhat, that which (object)je me demande ce que je dois faire = I wander what I must doce que is followed by a person
ce dontwhat, that of which C'est ce dont j'ai peur = That's what I'm afraid of

Note that ce is used when the original noun isn't mentioned in the sentence.


If the relative pronoun is used with a preposition (in, on, for, before, with, under, etc.) then lequel (m), laquelle (f), lesquels (m pl) or lesquelles (f pl) is used instead These can also be combined with à and de to become:

à de
auquel (m)duquel (m)
à laquelle (f)de laquelle (f)
auxquels (m pl)desquels (m pl)
auxquelles (f pl)desquelles (f pl)

Examples:

  • La raison pour laquelle je veux apprendre le français, c'est que j'en ai besoin pour mon travail. which means The reason for which I need to learn French is that I need it for my work.
  • Les questions auxquelles on répond par oui ou par non sont plus faciles. which means Questions which have an answer of yes or no are easier.