Ce qui (vs ce que) = what, which (relative pronouns)

These examples show how ce qui (what/which) is used:
 

Il a gagné la course, ce qui est impressionnant.
He won the race, which is amazing.

 

Ce qui fait peur ici, ce sont les médias.
What is really scary here, is the media.

 

Je ne sais pas ce qui m'arrive.
I don't know what is happening to me.

How to know when to use ce qui instead of ce que in French 

The pattern to spot is that we use ce qui when the next word is a verb or an object or reflexive pronoun (for example: me, te, se, lui, le, la, nous, vous, leur, les). 

Note that ce qui never becomes ce qu' in front of a vowel or a mute h.
 
Contrast with these sentences where ce que is used - notice the words immediately following
 

Je fais ce que je veux.
I do what I want.

 

Tu ne devineras jamais ce que Paul a fait!
You will never guess what Paul did!

 

When to use ce qui or ce que versus qui or que ?

In cases where ce qui / ce que would also be translated by which in English, you need to ask yourself: What is que/qui/ce que/ce qui referring to?

If it refers to a noun (expressed before), then you will use que/qui.

If it refers to the whole part of the sentence, the whole idea, then it will be ce que/ce qui.

Ces fleurs, qui sont des tournesols, poussent bien ici.
These flowers, which are sunflowers, grow well here.

Here qui refers to flowers.

J'utilise de l'aloe vera tous les jours, ce qui est très bon pour ma peau.
I use aloe vera every day, which is very good for my skin.

Here ce qui refers to the whole fact that I use aloe vera every day, not just to aloe vera.

ATTENTION: Case of quoi

Quoi will be used when what is followed by an infinitive = what to do, what to think:

Je ne sais pas quoi faire.
I don't know what to do.

Il se demande quoi choisir.
He's wondering what to choose.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Je ne sais pas quoi faire.
I don't know what to do.


Il se demande quoi choisir.
He's wondering what to choose.




J'utilise de l'aloe vera tous les jours, ce qui est très bon pour ma peau.
I use aloe vera every day, which is very good for my skin.


Ce qui = what


Ce qui fait peur ici, ce sont les médias.
What is really scary here, is the media.


Ce qui = what ...


Je ne sais pas ce qui m'arrive.
I don't know what is happening to me.


Ce qui m'embête c'est son attitude.
What bothers me is her/his attitude. 


Ce qui = which ...


Il a gagné la course, ce qui est impressionnant.
He won the race, which is amazing.


Q&A

Blake

Kwiziq community member

11 December 2018

3 replies

Any relation to complete/incomplete clauses?

It seems to me that qui/ce qui are used when the following close is incomplete, and that que/ce que are used when the following close is complete. Is that true?

Blake

Kwiziq community member

11 December 2018

11/12/18

Sub complete/incomplete with independent/dependent. It's been a while since I've taken middle school English!

Blake

Kwiziq community member

11 December 2018

11/12/18

Also sub "close" for "clause." I really wish I could edit messages here!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

12 December 2018

12/12/18

Hi Blake, I think you got it!

If the relative pronoun (qui/que) refers to an object or idea which is not meantioned in the sentence, you need ce qui/ce qui. If the target of the relative pronoun is part of the same sentence, qui/que suffices.

J'aime voir des films, qui me plaisent. -- I like to see movies, which I like (which-->movies).
J'aime voir des films, ce qui me plaît. -- I like to see movies, (a fact) which I like

Bill

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2018

7 replies

Construction correct?

Bonjour!

Is the below sentence correct in terms of usage of que/qui vs ce que/ce qui?

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon qu'est attaché à mon appartement.  

For some reason the "qu'est" doesn't look right to me but i dont know why.  If any other errors, appreciate the correction on those as well.

Merci d'avance!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2018

18/10/18

It should be ... qui est attaché... since the relative pronoun functions as the subject of the relative clause.

Bill

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2018

18/10/18

Thanks for the reply.  My confusion is that in my sentence, I thought "Je" was the subject and "le balcon" was either an object or something else.  Any insight on that or link reference you have that could help me understand would be appreciated.  Merci!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2018

18/10/18

Je is the subject of the main clause and qui is the subject of the subordinate close. 

Je m'assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon. Il est attaché à mon appartement.

The second sentence gets attached to the first one by using a relative pronoun (qui), that stands in for the subject (it). 

Bill

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2018

18/10/18

Thank you.

Are the below two sentences correct uses of "que" & "ce qui"?

Je m'assieds dans une chaise que j'ai acheté au magasin

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon, ce qui je trouve relaxant.

Bill

Kwiziq community member

18 October 2018

18/10/18

I see that i'm wrong.  To follow the lesson above, it should be the following?

Je m’assieds dans une chaise sur le balcon, ce que je trouve relaxant

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2018

19/10/18

Absolutely correct. I think you got it. 

Bill

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2018

19/10/18

Merci pour votre aide!

Marnie

Kwiziq community member

16 July 2018

2 replies

Et la différence entre lequel et ce que? Both refer to previous thought/action...

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

17 July 2018

17/07/18

Hi Marnie,

Not sure about your question , can you add some context?

Marnie

Kwiziq community member

17 July 2018

17/07/18

It came from a lesson ....but i’ve Progressed and found the more advanced lesson which answered my question thank you Cécile!

Paul

Kwiziq community member

17 June 2018

1 reply

Qui and ce qui

"Je ne sais pas qui lui plaît" and "Je ne sais pas ce qui lui plaît".

Does the "ce" change the meaning from who(m) to what?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 June 2018

18/06/18

Hi Paul, I see you've been pretty active over the weekend. Great! :)

Je ne sais pas qui lui plaît. -- I don't know whom he likes.
Je ne sais pas ce qui lui plaît. -- I don't know what he likes.

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Diana

Kwiziq community member

6 October 2016

3 replies

Quoi also means what...

How do you know when to use Quoi in a situation where ce qui and ce que is present.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 October 2016

6/10/16

Bonjour Diana ! "Quoi" will be used when "what" is followed by an infinitive = "what to do, what to think...": "Je ne sais pas quoi faire." (I don't know what to do.) "Il se demande quoi choisir." (He's wondering what to choose.) I hope that's helpful!

Diana

Kwiziq community member

7 October 2016

7/10/16

Yes, it is. Mille fois merci

Ien

Kwiziq community member

19 August 2018

19/08/18

Then how is it possible that a French consumer's magazine is called Que Choisir?

I always thought this meant 'what to choose', but if we follow the rule it should be 'quoi choisir'. Right?

Joyance

Kwiziq community member

6 May 2016

2 replies

Along the lines of the "ce que" versus "quel" question...

Along the lines of the "ce que" versus "que" question, must the question "Ce qui fait peur ici?" always begin with "ce que" because the answer is unknown (not mentioned previously?) even though it refers to a noun and not a phrase/sentence? If so, when can a question begin with Quel? Only if the answer was already mentioned?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

6 May 2016

6/05/16

Bonjour Joyance !

First of all, Ce qui fait peur ici ? is not correct, because as you need to have the element referred to by ce qui / ce que (what, which) mentioned in the same sentence.

Therefore, to ask "What/Who is scary here?", you will use the interrogative pronoun Que or Qui, as such:
Qu'est-ce qui fait peur ici ?  (for undetermined)
Qui fait peur ici ?    (for a person)

To which you could answer:
Ce qui fait peur ici, c'est qu'il fait noir.    (What is scary here is that it's dark.)

As for Quel?, it is used in questions where a specific choice is presented: it means "what" in the sense of "which (one)?" here.
E.g. Quelle chose fait peur ?  (What thing is scary?)
       Lequel fait peur ?   (Which one is scary?)

I hope that's helpful.

ly fen

Kwiziq community member

8 May 2016

8/05/16

Hello, Can we also use "quoi"? like "de quoi fait peur ici?" Thanks in advance.

Kate

Kwiziq community member

9 February 2016

3 replies

Ce que / Ce qui instead of Que or Qui alone.

Hello. I think I understand when to use ce qui instead of ce que and vice versa, but I can't find the lesson that explains when to use ce que / ce qui instead of que or qui alone. Thanks for any help!

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

9 February 2016

9/02/16

Bonjour Kate, We don't currently have a lesson that specifically addresses when to use French relative pronouns (que / qui) vs when to use indefinite relative pronouns (ce que / ce qui). The difference is straightforward: you need relative pronouns when there is an antecedent - something specific that the pronoun refers back to: J'ai mangé du pain. Le pain que j'ai mangé était bon. You need indefinite relative pronouns when there is no antecedent, when the thing is unknown or unspecified: Ce que j'ai mangé était bon. I hope this helps! :-)

Kate

Kwiziq community member

9 February 2016

9/02/16

Thanks so much for the reply. Yes that seems clear. Will now try to apply it!

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

12 February 2016

12/02/16

Bonjour Kate ! That's a very interesting question indeed! Let's point out first that we're talking about the relative pronouns here, which are used to introduce a new information in a sentence (as opposed to question words like "what?"). Once you know this, the separation is quite simple: "qui/que" can mean "who/which/that ..." whereas "ce qui/ce que" mean "what ...". e.g. La fille que je regarde. (The girl whom[m]/that I'm watching.) e.g. Je fais ce que je veux. (I do what I want.) Precision: in cases where "ce qui / ce que" would also be translated by "which" in English, you need to ask yourself: What does "que/qui/ce que/ce qui" is referring to? If it refers to a noun (expressed before), then you will use "que/qui". If it refers to the whole part of the sentence, the whole idea, then it will be "ce que/ce qui". e.g. Les gens que je rencontre ... (The people which I meet...) Here "que" refers to "people" e.g. J'aime les bananes, ce que tu trouves fascinant. (I love bananas, which you find fascinating.) Here "ce que" refers to the whole fact that I love bananas, not just to the bananas. I hope that’s helpful!
Getting that for you now.