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To my knowledge, qui is usually used when talking about people, and que when talking about things. However, when I tried to translate this sentence on Google Translate to check my work, it gave me qui instead of que:

"A film which shines because of its originality."

My original sentence was:

"Un film que brille par son originalite."

Therefore I then searched on Google to see what I should use - qui or que, and I was surprised that there were more results for qui than que. What should I use in this case?

"Un film que brille par son originalite." or "Un film qui brille par son originalite."

Thanks in advance.

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The only grammatical choice of the two would be qui in this case.

You may find this surprising if you are used to thinking that qui means "who". However, this isn't strictly true: qui means "who" at the start of a question. But to introduce a relative clause as in your sentence here, the choice between qui and que depends on whether they are the subject or object of the verb in the relative clause.

Unlike when asking a question, the choice doesn't depend on whether you're referring to a person or object in this case.

So, you use qui in your sentence because it effectively acts as the subject of the verb briller. There's some more information on when to use qui vs que in the grammar section of the web site.

If you're not sure if it's the subject or object, how do you tell? Well, as a rule of thumb, the thing being referred to  in the relative clause is the subject, requiring qui in French, if changing it from singular to plural would also change the verb. In English, this rule of thumb works in the present tense (because in the past tense, English verbs don't change their form). So:

A film which shines because of...

Films which shine...

Notice how changing the singular "film" to plural "films" also means you have to change the verb. So that gives you a clue that it's the subject of the relative clause (and so needs qui in French).

On the other hand, consider this sentence:

The film that I am seeing tonight

The films that I am seeing tonight

In this case, changing "film" to "films" makes no difference to the verb. So that is a clue that you would use que in French. (I stress this rule of thumb only works in the present tense, and also wouldn't work if the verb was one of the "special" modal verbs in English that never change their form: should, must, would etc.)

Thanks for the in-depth explanation and links. Could you give me an example of when to use que instead of qui please?

I also found that this is true with ce qui and ce que. When a PN is used to replace the subject use ce qui, but when it's to replace a direct object use ce que. Two verbs in a sentence usually tells if a direct object is needed.

well, there is a very simple way to understand it (I get a video about that but the kind administrator is going to ban me if I add it), so:

A film wich shines: the subject of shines ( a film) is before which so QUI in French: un film qui brille

A film that I want to see: the subject I is after that so QUE: un film que je veux voir

(I know that some are going to say that the reel subject is "which" ok ok, but it is easier like that)

If the video actually relates to this question and isn't just an advert or copyright violation, then you are welcome to add it.


The simple way to remember which one to use is that: "que" is always followed by a pronoun.

So in your sentence you would use "qui".



The theory is even simpler :

qui is used when referring to a subject in a sub-clause :

L'animal donne du lait - l'animal s'appelle une vache

l'animal qui donne du lait, s'appelle une vâche - the animal that gives milk is called a cow.

que is used when referring to a direct object in a sub-clause

 L'animal a été tué dans un abattoir. Nous mangeons l'animal.

l'animal que nous mangeons, a été tué dans un abattoir - the animal that we eat, was killed in a slaughterhouse.

Note also your spelling : l'originalité.


bonne chance, 


Jan Loose


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