Qui ? Pour Qui ? A qui ? Avec Qui ? : French Relative Pronouns

relative pronouns french qui a qui pour qui

Have you wondered how to ask who/ whom/ for whom/ with whom/ in French?

Today, we’ll explain the relative pronoun qui, and its variants in French.

What is a relative pronoun?

A relative pronoun is one of the words in English (who, which, and that ) that can be used to introduce information that clarifies who or what is being discussed.

The relative pronoun can also be used to introduce more information about someone or something, for example.

  • Peter, who is an excellent painter, wants to study art.
  • Jane’s house, which was built in 1890, needs a lot of work.

Let’s see some examples in French.

La femme qui habite là-bas est très belle.

The lady who lives over there is very beautiful. 

 J’ai un vélo qui est bleu.

l have a bike that is blue.

Relative pronoun characteristics

  1. They glue relative and main clauses together
  2. Can be used as a subject, object or prepositional phrases
  3. Impersonal and therefore invariant (except lequel)
  4. Required in French, but optional in English

French Relative Pronouns

There are five relative pronouns in French: dont, lequel, où, que, and qui.  The following are equivalent to seven English relative pronouns and adverbs: that, when, where, which, who, whom, and whose.

But, because the English and French grammars are different and there may be more than one English translation for each French pronoun, it’s difficult to get a nice French relative pronouns list translated in English.

Today, we focus on the relative pronoun qui.


Qui – is referring to a person, and means who.

It is always a subject, and it can be replaced by a subject and followed by a verb.

  • referring back to a person in the sentence

La femme qui habite là-bas est très sympa.

The lady who lives over there is very friendly.

  • referring back to a thing or place

L’hôtel rose qui est au bord de la mer est fermé.

The blue hotel, which is by the sea, is closed.

  • we can use qui to join two sentences together

To show you how the affirmative sentence can be expanded into a relative. Here is an affirmative sentence that will be transformed into a relative sentence.

Le loup s’est échappé du zoo.

The wolf escaped from the zoo.

Sujet + verbe + complément

Le loup qui s’est échappé du zoo.

The wolf which escaped from the zoo.

Le garçon de café m’a servi un café.

The waiter served a coffee to me.

Sujet + verbe + complément

le garçon qui m’a servi un café.

The waiter who served a coffee to me.

L’armoire est très chère.

The wardrobe is very expensive.

sujet + verbe + complément

L’armoire qui est très chère

The wardrobe which is very expensive.

Pour Qui ?

pour qui – for who

Celui pour qui mon coeur Attente depuis longtemps.

The one for whom my heart’s waiting for long.

C’est pour qui, alors ?

No! Who’s it for, then?

Bonjour. C’est pour qui ?

Hello, who is this for?

A qui ?

A qui – who, whom, whose

Voyez à qui vous parlez gratuitement.

See who you’re talking to for free.

Rappelle-toi à qui tu parles Jack.

Remember who you’re talking to, Jack.

Attention à qui vous laissez entrer.

You got to watch who you let in here.

La fille à qui je pense est belle. 

The girl (whom) I am thinking about is beautiful.

Avec Qui ?

Avec qui – with whom

Avec qui dois-je communiquer  pour obtenir plus de renseignements ?

Whom do I contact for more information?

Avec qui elles sont susceptibles d’être partagées?

With whom can they be shared?

Difference between de qui and à qui

The difference between de qui and à qui is in terms of maker vs owner, from who/for who,

Maker vs Owner

These two questions may seem too similar but differ in meaning.

  • De qui est ce tableau ? -Who painted this painting?
  • A qui est ce tableau ? – Whose painting is this?

A qui ce tableau – who this painting belongs to

De qui ce tableau – who painted it, who is the creator

The preposition de, refers to the first owner, while the preposition à is referring to the actual owner.

From who/ For who

  • De qui est ce crayon ?
  • À qui est ce crayon ?

De qui = from who. À qui = for who.

De qui refers to the origin of the crayon and asks about the previous owner.

A qui is more interested in the actual owner

Belongs to/ Of

When you want to express belonging, the complement can be introduced by à or de depending on its nature.

  • De is followed by the noun or pronoun

La voiture de M. Durand est réparée.

The car of M. Durand is repaired.

La voiture de son père est réparée.

His father’s car is repaired.

  • A is followed by the personal pronoun

Cette voiture est à lui.

This car belongs to him.

French Relative Pronoun Challenge

It is the absence of a literal translation between your native language and French that presents the biggest challenge when learning French Relative Pronouns.

There, you have to step into the minds of French speakers and try to grasp the patterns. Most of the time, it means learning by heart.

Seeing the difference between the French relative pronouns de qui, a qui, pour qui, avec qui can be challenging at first.

But like every time in the language, time and practice can put things in the right place.

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