French Relative Pronouns Lesson: QUI – QUE – OÙ – DONT

French Relative Pronouns Lesson  

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QUI – QUE – OÙ – DONT

What is a relative pronoun?

Here is a lesson on French relative pronouns: CE QUE, CE QUI, CE DONT

These words are used to link a dependent clause to a main clause. A dependent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. It does not express a complete thought so it isn’t a sentence and can’t stand alone.
In English, French relative pronouns can be translated to WHO, WHOM, THAT, WHICH, WHOSE, WHERE or WHEN. Unlike in French, we don’t always have to use them in English. Many times they are optional. For example, I could say either “the movie I saw last night” or “the movie that I saw last night”.

QUI

QUI can be tricky because you’ve certainly learned that as a question word, QUI means WHO. As a relative pronoun it can mean WHO or WHAT. QUI replaces the subject in the dependent clause.
Je téléphone à ma mère.

Elle est en Louisiane.

Je téléphone à ma mère qui est en Louisiane.
I am calling my mother.

She is in Louisiana.

I am calling my mother who is in Louisiana.
In this example QUI means WHO.

Je vais lire le livre.

Il est dans mon sac.

Je vais lire le livre qui est dans mon sac.
I am going to read the book.

It is in my bag.

I am going to read the book that is in my bag.
In this example QUI means WHAT.

QUI can also replace an indirect object, a person, after a preposition.
J’appelle une amie. J’étais au lycée avec cette amie. J’appelle une amie avec qui j’étais au lycée.
I’m calling a friend. I was in high school with this friend. I’m calling a friend with whom I was in high school.
It sounds kind of strange when you translate it that way to English, but that way you hear WITH WHOM. Even though a lot of people don’t speak that way anymore in English it is perfectly normal to do so in French, and in fact it’s a very important rule.

QUE

QUE replaces the direct object in a dependent clause. Remember, a direct object answers the questions WHO or WHAT?
Je fais rôtir le poulet.

Mon mari l’a acheté.

Je fais rôtir le poulet que mon mari a acheté.
I am roasting the chicken.

My husband bought it.

I am roasting the chicken that my husband bought.
Many times the relative pronoun QUE will be followed by a subject or subject pronoun.

Je prépare les légumes.

Mon mari les a achetés.

Je prépare les légumes que mon mari a achetés.
I’m preparing the vegetables.

My husband bought them.

I’m preparing the vegetables that my husband bought.
In the passé composé, since QUE replaces a direct object you need to remember to make agreement with the past participle in gender and number .

Sometimes you may come across sentences that are put together a little differently, like this one:
Les bonbons que mange mon petit frère sont trop sucrés.
This one is a little difficult to translate into English. It means “The candies that my little brother is eating are too sweet.” You’ll notice that the verb MANGE in this sentence actually is placed before the subject, mon petit frère.  This is not a very common construction.

OÙ can also be a bit tricky because as a relative pronoun not only does it indicate place as it’s English translation would suggest, but it can also indicate time.
OÙ often means WHERE when used as a relative pronoun.
La fromagerie OÙ j’ai acheté le camembert est en ville. The cheese shop where I bought the camembert is in town.
That makes good sense. OÙ means WHERE in this sentence.
OÙ as a relative pronoun can also refer to time. This is where a lot of French students mess up. OÙ can also refer to time and it gets translated to WHEN in English.
When referring to time we tend to want to use the word QUAND because it means WHEN. Yes, it does, But the problem is that QUAND is not a relative pronoun so you can’t use it as if it were.
C’est le moment où…This is the time when…
Would you have been tempted to use QUAND instead of OÙ?
Here’s another example:
Il pleuvait le jour où nous sommes arrivés. It was raining the day when we arrived.

DONT

The last relative pronoun we are going to look at in this lesson is DONT.  if you’ve studied relative pronouns already this is probably the one you don’t like very much, but i’m going to try and simplify it for you. DONT replaces people or objects that come after DE.
Tu vois cette dame?

Je t’ai parlé de cette dame.

C’est la dame dont je t’ai parlé.
Here we have an example of a person preceded by DE.
Do you see that lady?

I spoke to you about that lady.

That’s the lady I talked to you about. – That’s the lady of whom I spoke.

J’ai besoin d’un couteau.

Le couteau est sur la table.

Le couteau dont j’ai besoin est sur la table.
I need a knife.

The knife is on the table.

The knife that I need is on the table.
The trickiest part about using dont isn’t really understanding the rule, but it’s knowing which verbs and expressions are followed by de.

Exercise

1 La fille  _____ je te parlais vient d’arriver.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

2 M. Richard, _____ est conducteur de taxi, habite au coin de la rue.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

3 Nous rendons souvent visite à notre oncle _____ habite en Angleterre.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

4 C’est une fille _____ vient d’Espagne.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

5 Pierre est le garçon ____ est derrière l’arbre.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

6 Cet homme, _____ son père est professeur, a oublié son parapluie.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

7 Vendredi, c’est le jour _____ on fait les courses au marché.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

8 Qu’est-ce que tu as fait de l’argent _____ ta mère t’a laissé?

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

9 C’est le livre _____ j’ai besoin pour faire mes devoirs.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

10 Les cerises _____ j’ai acheté un kilo ne sont pas bonnes.

a. qui

b. que

c.

d. dont

Answers

1 La fille  _____ je te parlais vient d’arriver.

d. dont

2 M. Richard, _____ est conducteur de taxi, habite au coin de la rue.

a. qui

3 Nous rendons souvent visite à notre oncle _____ habite en Angleterre.

a. qui

4 C’est une fille _____ vient d’Espagne.

a. qui

5 Pierre est le garçon ____ est derrière l’arbre.

a. qui

6 Cet homme, _____ le père est professeur, a oublié son parapluie.

d. dont

7 Vendredi, c’est le jour _____ on fait les courses au marché.

c.

8 Qu’est-ce que tu as fait de l’argent _____ ta mère t’a laissé?

b. que

9 C’est le livre _____ j’ai besoin pour faire mes devoirs.

d. dont

10 Les cerises _____ j’ai acheté un kilo ne sont pas bonnes.

d. dont

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you, Jennifer!! Love your teaching and your video on this is great!! God bless, C-Marie

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Claudia-Marie 🙂

      Reply
    • Thank you so much, Claudia-Marie 🙂

      Reply

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