Relative Pronouns


Relative pronouns are used to join two sentences, such as:

When the sentences are joined, the subject of the second sentence can be replaced by a relative pronoun:
J'ai trouvé un appartement qui a trois pièces. I found an apartment which has three rooms.
There are several different relative pronouns. The choice of pronoun depends on two things:
1) whether the pronoun is definite (refers to a known antecedent) or indefinite (the antecedent is unknown or unclear.), and
2) what the pronoun's grammatical function is in the subordinate clause.


Subjects

Qui is used when the noun replaced is in the position of the grammatical subject. Note that qui -- unlike que -- does not contract before a vowel sound.

When the antecedent is unclear or absent (or when the noun appears after the relative pronoun), the indefinite relative pronoun ce qui is used.


Direct Objects

Que is used when the noun replaced is in the position of the grammatical direct object. Note that que will contract to qu' before a vowel sound:

When the antecedent is unclear or absent (or when the noun appears after the relative pronoun), the indefinite relative pronoun ce que is used:


Objects of the preposition "de"

Dont is generally used when the noun replaced is an object of the preposition de. It is commonly used with verbs followed by de (parler de, se méfier de, avoir besoin de, être content de, etc.), as well as to show possession (similar to whose in English):

When the antecedent is unclear or absent (or when the noun appears after the relative pronoun), the indefinite relative pronoun ce dont is used: Note that compound prepositions (à côté de, près de, etc.), are not followed by dont, but by qui or lequel. See next paragraph.
 

Objects of other prepositions

Generally lequel will be used to replace the object of prepositions other than de (including compound prepositions, such as à côté de, près de, etc.). When the pronoun refers to people, qui may be used. Remember that lequel will change to agree in number and gender (lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles) with the noun to which it refers, and it can contract with à and de like the definite article.

When the antecedent is unclear or absent (or when the noun appears after the relative pronoun), the indefinite relative pronoun quoi is used:


Time and space

is used to replace nouns referring to time:

may also be used instead of constructions with lequel when the preposition indicates space. However, is less precise than lequel constructions:



Previous Topic

Usage of the Pronouns and Determiners Index

Descriptive French Grammar
French Language Main Page

Modern Romance Languages Main Page
Orbis Latinus Main Page

This page is part of Orbis Latinus
© Zdravko Batzarov