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More about qui and que

Two small French words with many meanings and functions

We already discussed the use of qui and que to ask questions. But these words have other meanings and functions too.

As relative pronouns, qui and que refer to people or things already mentioned.

Qui as a relative pronoun

  • Le vent qui souffle empêche les pêcheurs de partir.
    = The wind that/which is blowing is preventing the fishermen from leaving.
  • Voici la personne à qui je parlais.
    = This is the person to whom I was speaking.
  • L'enfant qui traverse la rue est l'un de mes élèves.
    = The child who is crossing the street is one of my pupils.
  • Il fait ce qui lui plaît.
    = He does what(ever) he likes. (Literally, 'that which he likes')

In the examples above, the relative pronoun qui refers to 'the wind', 'the person', 'the child' and 'whatever'… that have already been mentioned (in italics).

Que as a relative pronoun

  • Voici la leçon que j'étudie.
    = This is the lesson that I am studying.
  • C'est la femme que j'ai vue.
    = That's the woman that/whom I saw.
  • Les 30 € que ce livre m'a coûté…
    = The €30 that this book cost me…
  • Cela fait deux ans que je ne l'ai pas vu.
    = It's been two years since I have seen him./I haven't seen him for two year. (Literally, 'That makes two years that...')

In the examples above, que refers to the (grammatical) object of the sentence; it may refer to a person or a thing.

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