Relative pronouns refer to something previously mentioned. In French, the equivalent of what/which can be ce qui.
Learn about the French relative pronoun ce qui
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.
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