Indefinite Relative Pronouns

les pronoms relatifs indefinis: ce qui, ce que, ce dont, ce à quoi

There are situations when there is no exact word in the antecedent for the relative pronoun to represent. In these cases the pronoun ce is combined with the relative pronouns to make ce qui, ce que, ce dont and ce à quoi. All of these mean what in the sense of “I don’t know what I’m doing to do.”.

Ce que is used as a direct object of the dependent clause. In another lesson we learned the rule is que + noun or subject pronoun.

  • Je vais faire quelque chose. I’m going to do something.
    Je ne sais pas ce que je vais faire. I don’t know what I’m doing to do. 
  • Il va commander quelque chose. I’m going to order something.
    Il ne sait pas ce qu’il va commander. He doesn’t know what he’s going to order.

Ce qui is used as the subject of the dependent clause. Rule here is qui + verb.

  • Quelque chose t’inquiete. Something is bothering you.
    Je ne comprends pas ce qui t’inquiete. I don’t understand what’s bothering you.
  • Quelque chose est fabriqué en Europe.
    J’achète tous ce qui est fabriqué en Europe. I buy everything that’s made in France.

Ce dont is used with verbs that take the preposition de.

  • Tu as besoin de quelque chose. You need something.
    Je ne comprends pas ce dont tu as besoin. I don’t understand what you need.
  • Tu te souviens de quelque chose. You remember something. 
    Je veux savoir ce dont tu te souviens. I want to know what you remember.

Ce à quoi is used for verbs followed by à.

  • Il pense à quelque chose. He’s thinking about something.
    Je ne sais pas ce à quoi il pense.  I don’t know what he’s thinking about.
  • Elle s’interesse à quelque chose. She’s interested in something.
    Je ne comprends pas ce à quoi elle s’interesse. I don’t understand what she’s interested in.

Ce qui, ce qui, ce dont and ce à quoi can all go at the beginning of a sentence for emphasis.  The de and à are repeated in the second part of the sentence for ce dont and ce à quoi.

  • Ce que j’aime, c’est le cinéma français! What I like is French cinema!
  • Ce qui est embêtant, c’est les gens qui ne conduisent pas bien. What’s annoying is people who don’t drive well.
  • Ce dont il a besoin, c’est de trouver une petite copine! What he needs is to find a girlfriend!
  • Ce à quoi il pense, c’est à ses vacances. What he’s thinking about is his vacation.
It’s video time! Watch Elsa teach ce que, ce qui, ce dont and ce à quoi!

Source: Learn French With Elsa (YouTube channel)

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