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The Interrogative Pronouns: qui, que, quoi, qu'est-ce que, and qui est-ce qui

The interrogative pronoun “Qui”

“Qui” means who. It can be used to ask questions about the subject(a person only) or the object of the sentence(a person only).

As a subject referring to a person:

Qui veut aller avec moi au cinéma ?
Who wants to go with me to the movies?

Qui prendra soin de toi quand je serai absent ?
Who will take care of you when I am absent?

Qui nous emmènera à l’aéroport ?
Who will take us to the airport?

Qui sont ces gens-là ?
Who are these people?

Qui est là ?
Who is there?

As a direct object referring to a person:

- Qui avez-vous rencontré là-bas ?
- Nous avons rencontré Josiane et Frédérique.
- Who did you meet there?
- We met Josiane and Frédérique.

Tu vas emmener qui avec toi ?
Who will you bring with you?

Qui viendra ce soir ?
Who is coming tonight?

Qui allons-nous inviter à notre fête de mariage ?
Who will we invite to our wedding?

Qui va- t-il choisir comme témoin ?
Who will he choose for a witness?

“Qui” can be preceded with a preposition such as: à, de, pour, contre, avec etc.., it can refer to different things.

“À qui” meaning whose, refers to ownership for persons :

À qui appartiennent ces bottes ?
Whose are these boots?

“Pour qui” meaning for whom, refers to the person for whom an action/a thing is done/directed:

Tu travailles pour qui ?
Who do you work for?

Vous faites ce gâteau pour qui ?
Who do you make this cake for?

“Avec qui” meaning with whom, refers to the person who accompanies the subject:

Avec qui tu vas voyager ?
Who will you travel with?

Elle a dansé avec qui ?
Who did she dance with?

The Interrogative Pronoun “Que”

“Que” means what and is used to refer to ideas, things or actions. “Que” cannot be put at the end of the sentence. It is always at the beginning of the question. “Que” asks the question about the direct object when it’s not a person. “Que” becomes “Qu’ ” when it’s followed with a vowel or a mute “h”.

Que fais-tu ce soir ?
What are you doing tonight?

Que voulez-vous que je fasse ?
What do you want me to do?

Que chantera-t-il à la réception ?
What will he sing at the reception?

Que prenez-vous, monsieur ?
What do you want to drink, sir?

Qu’allons-nous faire maintenant ?
What are we going to do now?

The Interrogative expressions: “Qu’est-ce que ?”, “Qui est-ce que ?”, and “Qu’est-ce qui”

Qu’est-ce que....?

“Qu’est-ce que” is the most commonly used type of question. The questions asked with “qu’est ce que” have the same meaning as the questions asked with “que” except that the “que” questions are slightly more formal than the “qu’est-ce que questions”.

Qu’est-ce que tu manges ?
What are you eating?

Qu’est-ce nous allons faire maintenant ?
What are we going to do now?

Qu’est-ce qu’il a acheté comme voiture ?
What kind of car did he buy?

Qu’est-ce que vous avez trouvé ?
What did you find?

Qui est-ce qui...?

“Qui est-ce qui” is used to look for the subject when this refers to a person.

Qui est-ce qui vous a raccompagnée à la maison hier ?
Who walked /drove you home yesterday?

Qui est-ce qui a inventé la bombe atomique ?
Who invented the atomic bomb?

Qui est-ce qui te doit de l’argent ?
Who owes you money?

Qui est-ce qui m’a promis de m’emmener diner dehors ce soir ?
Who promised to take me out for dinner tonight?

Qu’est-ce qui...?

“Qu’est-ce qui” is used to ask a question about the subject when it’s not a person.

Qu’est-ce qui est jaune et qui brille dans le ciel ?
C’est le soleil !
What is yellow and shines in the sky?
It’s the sun!

Qu’est-ce qui est drôle ?
What’s funny?

Qu’est-ce qui pue ici ?
What smells bad here?

The interrogative pronoun “Quoi”

“Quoi” means what. It is always at the end of the question or in the middle of the question just after the verb or the auxiliary. It is never put at the beginning of the question. It looks for the direct object when this is a thing or a situation. It is used informally.

Vous faites quoi ce soir ?
What are you doing tonight?
Tu as entendu quoi ?
What did you hear?

Si tu étais à ma place, tu ferais quoi ?
What would you do if you were in my shoes?

“Quoi” alone is very commonly used when we hear something and we don’t understand it, or when we are surprised when we hear or read some news we didn’t expect.

- Je vais me marier demain.
- Quoi ?
-I’m getting married tomorrow.

It is also used in certain idiomatic expressions:

Quoi de neuf ?
What’s up?