Easy Learning French

Relative pronouns: qui, que, lequel, auquel, duquel - Easy Learning Grammar French

What is a relative pronoun?
In English a relative pronoun is one of the words who, which and that (and the more formal whom) which can be used to introduce information that makes it clear which person or thing is being talked about, for example, The man who has just come in is Ann’s boyfriend; The vase that you broke was quite valuable.
Relative pronouns can also introduce further information about someone or something, for example, Peter, who is a brilliant painter, wants to study art; Jane’s house, which was built in 1890, needs a lot of repairs.
  • In French, the relative pronouns are qui, que, lequel, auquel, and duquel.

1 qui and que

  • qui and que can both refer to people or things.
 Relative pronounMeaning
Direct objectquewho, whom
Mon frère, qui a vingt ans, est à l’université.My brother, who’s twenty, is at university.
Est-ce qu’il y a un bus qui va au centre-ville?Is there a bus that goes to the town centre?
Les amis que je vois le plus sont Léa et Mehdi.The friends (that) I see most are Léa and Mehdi.
Voilà la maison que nous voulons acheter.That’s the house (which) we want to buy.
Tipque changes to qu’ in front of a word beginning with a vowel and most words beginning with h.
  • qui is also used after a preposition such as à, de or pour to talk about people.
la personne à qui il parlethe person he is speaking to
les enfants pour qui j’ai acheté des bonbonsthe children I bought sweets for
TipIn English we often miss out the object pronouns who, which and that. For example, we can say both the friends that I see most, or the friends I see most, and the house which we want to buy, or the house we want to buy. In French you can NEVER miss out que or qui in this way.

2 lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles

  • lequel (meaning which) is used after a preposition such as à, de or pour to talk about things. It has to agree with the noun it replaces.
le livre pour lequel elle est connuethe book she is famous for
la table sur laquelle j’ai mis mon sacthe table I put my bag on
  • Remember that à and de combine with the definite article le to become au and du, and with les to become aux and des. lequel/lesquels/lesquelles combine with à and de as shown in the table. laquelle doesn’t change.
 + lequel+ laquelle+ lesquels+ lesquellesMeaning
àauquelà laquelleauxquelsauxquellesto which
deduquelde laquelledesquelsdesquellesof which
Grammar Extra!dont means whose, of whom, of which, about which and so on. It can refer to people or things, but its form NEVER changes.
la femme dont la voiture est en pannethe woman whose car has broken down
les films dont tu parlesthe films you’re talking about
Key points
  • qui and que can both refer to people or things: qui is the subject of the part of the sentence it is found in; que is the object.
  • In English we often miss out the object pronouns who, which and that, but in French you can never miss out que or qui.
  • After a preposition you use qui if you are referring to people, and lequel if you are referring to things – lequel agrees with the noun it replaces.
  • à + lequel auquel
    à + lesquels auxquels
    à + lesquelles auxquelles
  • de + lequel duquel
    de + lesquels desquels
    de + lesquelles desquelles

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