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Qui? and que?

Using Qui? and Que? to ask questions

One of our listeners emailed us this morning about using Qui? and Que? to ask questions. Let's take a closer look.

There are several question forms in French. For now, however, let's consider some simple uses of Qui…? and Que…? to create questions.

Qui?, as an interrogative pronoun, always refers to a person

In the following examples, qui effectively replaces the subject of a sentence:

  • Qui a cassé la vase?
    = Who broke the vase? (Réponse: Jack broke the vase. (subject))
  • Qui est arrivé?
    = Who arrived? (Réponse: Jack and Jill arrived. (subject))
  • Qui fait le ménage chez Marie?
    = Who does the housework at Marie's place? (Réponse: Her mother usually does the housework. (subject))

Que?, as an interrogative pronoun, may either refer to a person or a thing

In the following examples, que effectively replaces the object of a sentence:

  • Que fais-tu?
    = What are you doing? (Réponse: I am preparing dinner. (object))
  • Que lit-il?
    = What is he reading? (Réponse: He is reading a book. (object))
  • Qu'est-ce qu'il fait à Londres? / Que fait-il à Londres?
    = What is he doing in London? (Réponse: He is studying. (object))
  • Qu'es-tu devenu?
    = What has become of you? (Réponse: object)

Other functions of qui and que

Qui? and Que? each have interrogative functions above. It is important to be aware, however, that qui and que have different functions in other contexts, for example:

  • La personne qui parle en ce moment, comment s'appelle-t-elle?
    = The person who is talking at the moment… what is his name?
  • Voici la pièce métallique qui a provoqué l'accident.
    = This is the piece of metal that caused the accident.
  • L'opéra que j'aime le plus, c'est la Tosca.
    = The opera that I like most is Tosca.
  • Matt Damon est l'acteur de cinéma que je préfère.
    = Matt Damon is the actor (that) I prefer.

In the examples above, qui and que behave as relative pronouns. They may refer to a person or a thing… but that discussion is for another blog post!

You will find very many examples of the use of qui and que throughout our lessons.

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