Dont = Whose

Look at these sentences using the pronoun dont: 

Une fille dont le frère travaillait avec moi...A girl whose brother used to work with me ...
 
J'ai rencontré cet acteur dont le nom me dit quelque chose...I met this actor whose name rings a bell ...
 
Tu as jeté la chaussure dont le talon est cassé.You threw away the shoe with the broken heel [lit. whose heel is broken].
 
Note that the construction with dont is similar to the one with whose in English. 
Although whose tends to be less used with inanimate objects in English, dont is actually the idiomatic way to express this in French.  
 
In French, dont replaces the possessive expression possessionde:
La sœur de Marc  ->  Marc, dont la sœur est journaliste, ...
Marc's sister  ->  Marc, whose sister is a journalist, ....
 
Unlike in English, you can find cases when dont and the possession are separated by a verb, for example:
 
François, dont j'ai rencontré la femme le mois dernier.François, whose wife I met last month.
 
When the owner is a person, you can alternatively use de qui as well as dont: however de qui is much less common and doesn't sound nearly as good in French. 
Les enfantsde qui je connais la maman, sont bien élevés.The children, whose mum I know, are well behaved.
 
ATTENTION
In the context of possession (whose), you won't use duquel, de laquelle, desquels nor desquelles.
 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

J'ai rencontré cet acteur dont le nom me dit quelque chose...I met this actor whose name rings a bell ...
Tu as jeté la chaussure dont le talon est cassé.You threw away the shoe with the broken heel [lit. whose heel is broken].
Une fille dont le frère travaillait avec moi...A girl whose brother used to work with me ...
Les enfantsde qui je connais la maman, sont bien élevés.The children, whose mum I know, are well behaved.
François, dont j'ai rencontré la femme le mois dernier.François, whose wife I met last month.
Les enfants, dont je connais la maman, sont bien élevés.The children, whose mum I know, are well behaved.
La maison, dont j'ai réparé le toit, est maintenant parfaite.The house, which I fixed the roof of [lit. whose roof I fixed], is now perfect.

Q&A Forum 10 questions, 18 answers

JamesonB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

separation of dont and the possession

The lesson seems to indicate that this separation is  'allowed' but 'irregular'.

 However it seems frequent and intrinsic enough in some translations to deserve identifying and defining as a rule of syntax.

If the 'possession' is the 'object' of the verb in the following clause then it is separated from dont and put after the verb in that clause. 'Dont' here is like a relative pronoun joining two clauses. All the examples support this  observation.

Tu as jeté la chaussure dont le talon est cassé.You threw away the shoe with the broken heel [lit. whose heel is broken]

BUT???Tu as jeté la chaussure chère dont  j'ai cassé  le talon.

Les enfants, dont je connais la maman, sont bien élevés.
François, dont j'ai rencontré la femme le mois dernier

Asked 3 days ago
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I think the most literal translation of dont is actually "of whom" or "of which", and it always follows the owner. Viewed this way, the usage is completely regular in all the examples you give. 

JamesonB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I am sorry but while I am normally very  appreciative of the knowledge and care and  respect shown in ALL your replies, I think this post, seemingly made in haste,  is dismissive of my observation. My observation may be WRONG and I included question marks and wording to allow for that and to seek insight as to the pattern contained in the examples within the lesson.

Une fille dont le frère ..better translated  as 'whose brother'

Les enfants, dont je connais… better translated as 'whose mum'

 J'ai rencontré cet acteur dont le nom... better translated as 'whose name.'

Of course one can reword the translation to say 'the name of whom'; 'the mum of whom; etc etc....

But doing so, especially for inexpert french learners like myself, will devalue ONE VERY significant grammar syntax ..The 'english wording 'whose mum' translates  to french as 'don't la maman' … I patted myself on the back for having noticed that and tucked it away in hopes of recalling that 'oddity' in the future.... so i dont write 'dont maman'.

It is with that 'enjoyment' of the twist of the language that I posted my other observation in hopes that more qualified contributors, as yourself , will indulge me a questioning but not indifferent perusal.

I am sorry but to  say that 'dont'  simply translates to a literal conversion  'of whom'  or 'of which'  diminishes the lesson and the joy of it's nuance. Not to mention throwing into the garbage bin, my curiosity re the pattern of 'don't ' separated from the possession noun'  when that possession noun is the OBJECT of the verb in the dependent clause.

Thank You!

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I am sorry if my reply seemed dismissive, it wasn't meant to be. Actually, after I had posted it I did start to think that it was perhaps less useful than I had intended. 

Of course, you're right that it's important to understand that "dont" needs to be translated as "whose" in some cases to give a natural translation.

I just thought that there was a simpler way of understanding the word order. If you think of "dont" as meaning "whose" then you expect it to be immediately followed by a possession, and then you need some rule to explain the cases when it isn't. But there are many things that can follow dont - a possession, a phrase concerning a possession, or any phrase with a verb followed by "de". I find it easier to think of it, initially, as "of whom/which" and then figure out the most appropriate translation later. But perhaps that's just me.

Jameson asked:View original

separation of dont and the possession

The lesson seems to indicate that this separation is  'allowed' but 'irregular'.

 However it seems frequent and intrinsic enough in some translations to deserve identifying and defining as a rule of syntax.

If the 'possession' is the 'object' of the verb in the following clause then it is separated from dont and put after the verb in that clause. 'Dont' here is like a relative pronoun joining two clauses. All the examples support this  observation.

Tu as jeté la chaussure dont le talon est cassé.You threw away the shoe with the broken heel [lit. whose heel is broken]

BUT???Tu as jeté la chaussure chère dont  j'ai cassé  le talon.

Les enfants, dont je connais la maman, sont bien élevés.
François, dont j'ai rencontré la femme le mois dernier

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SamA2Kwiziq community member

dont vs que

"Le couteau, dont Marc a cassé le manche, est bleu." What/who is blue?

vs

"Le couteau, que Marc a cassé le manche, est bleu." What/who is blue?


What would be the difference between dont and que here? 


Asked 1 month ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Sam,

The second sentence is wrong if you want to use 'que' you could say -

Le couteau, que Marc a cassé, a un manche bleu

in both, it is the handle ( manche) which is blue.

Hope this helps!

dont vs que

"Le couteau, dont Marc a cassé le manche, est bleu." What/who is blue?

vs

"Le couteau, que Marc a cassé le manche, est bleu." What/who is blue?


What would be the difference between dont and que here? 


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AnitaC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Blue handle

Well the confusing blue handled knife question is still there. I chose the blue handle and was marked incorrect.............and I don’t think that I am incorrect 


Asked 2 months ago
CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Anita,

Can you send me the link and we will look at it...

Blue handle

Well the confusing blue handled knife question is still there. I chose the blue handle and was marked incorrect.............and I don’t think that I am incorrect 


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SaraB2Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

‘Although whose tends to be less used with inanimate objects in English, dont is actually the colloquial way to express this in French.’

What word would we use in a more formal, or written context?

Asked 8 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Sara, 

Have flagged this up and has now been corrected.

Alan, please let us know when this happens as we are not native English speakers ...

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Dont is not "colloquial" - I think Aurélie means "idiomatic". I've noticed this in other lessons, too.

Sara asked:View original

‘Although whose tends to be less used with inanimate objects in English, dont is actually the colloquial way to express this in French.’

What word would we use in a more formal, or written context?

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MichelleC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Ce dont, tout ce dont??

Do you have any lessons about ce done and tout ce dont planned at this time? I'm have a lot of trouble with those. 

Asked 1 year ago

Ce dont, tout ce dont??

Do you have any lessons about ce done and tout ce dont planned at this time? I'm have a lot of trouble with those. 

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MarnieC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

« dont » ... link to « including »

Bonjour Aurélie,

As I’m re-learning and learning in a non-linear fashion, i would find it useful to have a link in this lesson to other uses of « dont » ...for example to say « including... »

Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Marnie !

There was already one link at the end of this lesson, but following your message, I added another one to "dont = including..."  :)

Bonne journée !

MarnieC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Merci!

« dont » ... link to « including »

Bonjour Aurélie,

As I’m re-learning and learning in a non-linear fashion, i would find it useful to have a link in this lesson to other uses of « dont » ...for example to say « including... »

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StephenC1Kwiziq community member

"Les vaches, dont les fermiers observent les bébés, se reposent dans le pré." Who is in the meadow?

The cows, {including} or{ whose} the farmers watch the babies, rest in the meadow. Question "Who is in the meadow?" it could be 1. The cows. or 2. The babies. This is a questionable question.
Asked 2 years ago
JeanC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributorCorrect answer

Les vaches are in the meadow. Elles s'y reposent.

"... dont les fermiers observent les bébés" is a phrase describing or giving more information about les vaches. Perhaps the calves are in the field also, but in this sentence it is not explicitly stated (they could be elsewhere like in the barn), and so all one can say for sure is that the cows are there in the field.

PaulC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
The English translation of this sentence is ambiguous because it can logically be interpreted as "cows including the babies" or "cows excluding the babies." Unless the French is entirely unambiguous, then I recommend changing this question to "who do we know for certain is in the meadow."
LizC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I, too, translated this as dont meaning including the farmers and calves. They were all in the field! Too ambiguous since dont can be translated two ways. If not, why not. I doubt I’ll be using this phrase in Paris but you never know! Merci.

"Les vaches, dont les fermiers observent les bébés, se reposent dans le pré." Who is in the meadow?

The cows, {including} or{ whose} the farmers watch the babies, rest in the meadow. Question "Who is in the meadow?" it could be 1. The cows. or 2. The babies. This is a questionable question.

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JenniferC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Les voitures dont le toit est décapotable. In this phrase could desquelles be used instead of dont?

Asked 2 years ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Jennifer,

No you cannot use 'desquelles' in this example, only 'dont'....

NicholasC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Yes, dont can be a substitue for duquel, de laquelle, desquels and desquelles.
ShreyA1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Bonjour Madame Cécile !

Why is “desquelles” not appropriate ? It agrees with “Les voitures” (feminine plural). Why here, only “dont” is accurate ?

There is a note in this lesson- In the context of possession (whose), you won't use duquel, de laquelle, desquels nor desquelles. 

However, I am unable to understand what it means ? Could you provide a few examples corresponding to this usage ?

Merci encore! À bientôt !

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Shrey,

As a rule of thumb you will use,dont

1. with verbs which are followed by the preposition de -

L'homme dont je te parle est mon voisin ( parler de ) = 

Le sujet dont il est question est intéressant ( il est question de)

Les chats dont il s'occupe sont des siamois ( s'occuper de)

2. a noun linked by de  or a phrase using de 

C'est l'histoire d'une femme dont la vie est tragique = It's the story of a woman whose life is tragic ( l'histoire d'une femme)

L 'homme dont la fille passe à la télévision est mon voisin = The man whose daughter is on television is my neighbour ( la fille de l'homme

Les voitures dont le toit est décapotable ---> le toit de la voiture 

3. Use duquel/de laquelle/desquels/desquelles ( and never 'dont') with prepositional phrases which use de (and there are many)

au cours de , loin de, à la fin de, au début de,  etc.

Le drame au milieu duquel vous vous trouvez est incroyable The drama in the middle of which you find yourself is unbelievable

La ville au centre de laquelle vous  habitez est devenue dangereuse = The town in the centre of which you live has become dangerous

etc.

Hope this helps!

Les voitures dont le toit est décapotable. In this phrase could desquelles be used instead of dont?

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SueC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

the blue knife

the second quiz question is a litte strange. I have a pictorial mind, and I rarely see a blue knife,ie a knife with a blue blade, the handle is the part that often determins the colour , unless it is silver when it is the material and colour . So when mark has broken the handle the mind says that the handle was blue when the french words imply that the knife as a whole is blue. confused!
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Sue ! I've looked at this question and I agree: it's really confusing ! I've therefore decided to remove it and replace it with a more straightforward sentence :) Merci beaucoup et à bientôt ! PS: To report on specific questions, please use the "Report it" button in your Correction Board, as it gives us a direct link to the reported question, and saves us time looking for it :)

the blue knife

the second quiz question is a litte strange. I have a pictorial mind, and I rarely see a blue knife,ie a knife with a blue blade, the handle is the part that often determins the colour , unless it is silver when it is the material and colour . So when mark has broken the handle the mind says that the handle was blue when the french words imply that the knife as a whole is blue. confused!

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GeraldC1Kwiziq community member

Can 'aussi bien que' be used as well as 'dont' to mean including?

Asked 3 years ago
CherylC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Bonjour Gerald, Oui! .. Yes, I think so: that aussi bien que can be used to say including. I asked this same question a while ago, and that's what Aurelie replied. Cheryl

Can 'aussi bien que' be used as well as 'dont' to mean including?

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