Understanding the Many Uses of “Que” in French

The French language is known for being rich and complex, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed when faced with a word like “que.” This little word has multiple meanings and uses, and it can be challenging to understand them all, especially if you’re not a native speaker. But don’t worry, because knowing how to use “que” properly can make a significant difference in your ability to communicate in French. In this article, we will provide you with detailed explanations of how “que” is used in French so that you can navigate the language more easily and confidently during your travels in France.

1. Using “Que” as a Relative Pronoun in French

As a relative pronoun: “Que” can be used as a relative pronoun to introduce a subordinate clause that describes or identifies a noun. For example, in the sentence “Le livre que j’ai acheté est très intéressant,” “que” is the relative pronoun that refers to “le livre” (the book) and introduces the subordinate clause “que j’ai acheté” (that I bought). Here are three more examples:

– Le film que j’ai vu hier était excellent. (The movie that I saw yesterday was excellent.)
– Les livres que j’ai achetés sont en français. (The books that I bought are in French.)
– Les gens qui parlent français sont nombreux au Canada. (The people who speak French are numerous in Canada.)

2. How “Que” Introduces Subordinate Clauses in French

To introduce a subordinate clause: “Que” is often used to introduce a subordinate clause that functions as the object of a verb or as the subject or object of a preposition. In the sentence “Je pense que tu devrais étudier plus,” “que” introduces the subordinate clause “tu devrais étudier plus” (you should study more), which functions as the object of the verb “penser” (to think). Here are three more examples:

– J’espère que nous aurons du beau temps demain. (I hope that we will have nice weather tomorrow.)
– Il est important que tu fasses tes devoirs. (It is important that you do your homework.)
– Nous avons décidé que nous irions en vacances ensemble. (We decided that we would go on vacation together.)

3. To express a comparison

“Que” can also be used to express a comparison, indicating that one thing is more or less than another. For example, in the sentence “Elle est plus grande que moi,” “que” is used to indicate that “elle” (she) is taller than “moi” (me). Here are three more examples:

– Mon chat est plus gros que ton chat. (My cat is bigger than your cat.)
– Elle est moins timide que moi. (She is less shy than me.)
– Les vacances en France sont plus chères qu’au Portugal. (Holidays in France are more expensive than in Portugal.)

4. To express a cause

 The phrase “parce que” is commonly used to introduce a subordinate clause that expresses the cause or reason for an action, and “que” introduces the clause that provides the explanation. For example, in the sentence “Je suis en retard parce que j’ai raté mon bus,” the word “que” introduces the subordinate clause “j’ai raté mon bus” that explains why the speaker is late.

– Je suis fatigué parce que j’ai travaillé toute la journée. (I am tired because I worked all day.)
– Il est en retard parce qu’il a raté son train. (He is late because he missed his train.)
– Nous avons dû annuler notre voyage à cause de la pandémie. (We had to cancel our trip because of the pandemic.)

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