Look at the following sentences: This is my friend. My friend got good marks.
This structure is rather clumsy and awkward and most people would say: This is my friend who got good marks.
The same is true in French- you can link sentences together using qui, que or dont, but you need to know which one to use.(qui/que and dont can be used for animate and inanimate objects so they are the same as who, which, that etc.)
Consider the sentence:
My friend is the subject of the second clause – my friend did the ‘getting of good marks’ so we link the sentences with qui
- Voici mon ami qui a reçu de bonnes notes
All the following sentences would use qui – the item in the first clause is the subject of the second clause:
- This is the girl who kissed me
- There’s that boy who beat me up
- Anne, who hadn’t felt well all day, threw up over John on the coach
- David, who has fancied Abi for ages, finally asked her out last week.
Now consider this sentence:
My friend is the object of the second clause – (I is the subject, my friend is the object) so we link the sentence with que
- Voici mon ami que j’ai vu dans le parc
All the following sentences would be linked with que – the item in the first clause is the object of the second clause
- This is the girl who I kissed
- There’s that boy who David beat up
- Anne, who John had been chatting up on the coach, was sick
- David, who Abi has fancied for ages, finally asked her out last week.
Dont is similar to qui and que. It is used to link sentences but means of whom/of which/about whom etc. It is used when the verb in the second clause is followed by de. You cannot end a sentence or a clause with de in French so:-
- The man who I was talking about/of – L’homme que je parlais de
- The man about whom I was talking – L’homme dont je parlais.
Lots of verbs in French take de when they don’t in English.
This is shown below:
|Here’s the book that I need
|avoir besoin de
|Voici le livre dont j’ai besoin
|Here’s the book that I use every day
|se servir de
|Voici le livre dont je me sers tous les jours
|to fear/to be scared of
|Here’s the teacher I’m scared of
|avoir peur de
|Voici le prof dont j’ai peur
Dont can also mean whose
- Voici le garçon dont le père est maire = This is the boy whose father is mayor
- L’homme, dont le frère est notre facteur, est très riche = The man, whose brother is our postman, is very rich.
|Voici le livre. Tu as parlé de ce livre.
> Voici le livre dont tu as parlé.
|Here’s the book. You talked about this book.
> Here’s the book (that) you talked about.
|J’ai peur d’une seule chose : le noir.
> Le noir est la seule chose dont j’ai peur.
|I’m afraid of only one thing: the dark.
> The dark is the only thing (that) I’m afraid of
> The dark is the only thing of which I’m afraid.
|Je me méfie de lui.
> Tu connais l’homme dont je me méfie ?
|I’m suspicious of him.
> Do you know the man (whom) I’m suspicious of?
> Do you know the man of whom I’m suspicious?
Since possession is indicated with de, dont can express it as well. When the thing possessed is a person,dont is equivalent to “whose”; when it’s inanimate, the best translation is often “with.”
|Je connais un homme. La femme de cet homme est espionne.
> Je connais un homme dont la femme est espionne.
|I know a man. This man’s wife is a spy.
> I know a man whose wife is a spy.
|Je cherche une maison. La porte de la maison est jaune.
> Je cherche la maison dont la porte est jaune.
|I’m looking for a house. The house’s door is yellow.
> I’m looking for the house with a yellow door.
Dont can also refer to members of a group:
|J’ai beaucoup d’amis. Deux de mes amis sont poètes.
> J’ai beauoup d’amis, dont deux poètes.
|I have a lot of friends. Two of my friends are poets.
> I have a lot of friends, two of whom are poets.
|Certains films sont très marrants. Dîner de consest un de ces films.
> Certains films sont très marrants, dontDîner de cons.
|Some movies are very funny. Dîner de cons is one of those movies.
> Some movies are very funny, includingDîner de cons.
À noter : After any preposition other than de, the relative pronoun is either qui (when it’s a person) or lequel (when it’s an object). Also, when de is not on its own, but instead part of a prepositional phrase such as près de, the relative pronoun is lequel.
from Lawless French » Grammar Lessons