The 3 meanings of 'QUE'

Que, as a relative pronoun in French, can be hard to apprehend at first for English speakers who may believe that qui means ‘who’ and that que means ‘that’. As you will see, that’s not the case at all in French. There is no difference when using qui and que based on people vs things. What matters is their grammatical role inside the sentence. Qui is used when it refers to the subject and que when refering to the direct object. But is can be quite confusing as que is also used instead of quoi inside questions with inversion.

Que: Interrogative pronoun

In an inversion question, que is used instead of quoi.

So when you ask: 

– Que faites-vous? → What are you doing?

It means:

Vous faites quoi?  → What are you doing?

It is the same que you will see in the question qu’est-ce que…?

Que: Relative pronoun

Que can also be a relative pronoun in a relative clause. It means the noun right before will also be the object of the next verb.

– J’aime le gâteau que vous avez fait. → I love the cake (that) you have made.

In this sentence, gâteau is the object of j’aime but also the object of avez fait.

In French, que is not optional like ‘that’ in English so make sure to use it. 🙂

Que: Conjunction

Finally, que can be a conjunction after a verb of speech or opinion. It will link the verb with an entire clause as object.

– Je pense que tu as raison.” → I think (that) you’re right.

Same here, que is not optional.