The word for who in French is: “qui” (pronounced kee). For example, “Qui parle français ?” (Who speaks French?). At first glance, the usage of qui seems easy. However, the usage of qui can be come very confusing. This post provides a comprehensive explanation of precisely how to use qui in a wide variety of sentences. Keep reading.
Who in French – how to use “qui” in questions
Qui est and qui sont
The first and most basic way of using qui is: “Qui est” (who is) and “Qui sont” (who are). For example:
Qui est Charles de Gaulle ?
Who is Charles de Gaulle?
Qui sont ces gens ?
Who are these people?
Qui + verb
The easiest way of using “qui” to ask questions is to use the structure: “qui + verb”. Here are some example sentences:
Qui parle français ?
Who speaks French?
- Qui mange la pizza ? Who’s eating the pizza?
- Qui prépare le repas ? Who’s making (preparing) the meal?
Qui + est-ce que + personal pronoun + verb ?
The second grammatical structure we’ll look at at is: “Qui + est-ce que + personal pronoun + verb + ?“. The word “est-ce que” means is/are/do/does for asking questions. It must be followed by a person (Pierre, for example) or personal pronoun (tu or vous, for example).
Here are some example sentences using this format:
Qui est-ce que vous invitez ?
Who are you inviting?
The following table gives examples of how to use “qui” (who) in basic questions:
|Questions about people|
|Qui?||who(m)?||Qui est-ce que vous invitez à la fête?
Who are you inviting to the party?
|À qui?||to who(m)?||À qui est-ce qu'elle téléphone?
Who is she calling?
|De qui?||About who(m)?||De qui est-ce que vous parlez?
Who are you talking about?
|Avec qui?||With who(m)?||Avec qui est-ce que tu danses?
Who are you dancing with?
|Pour qui?||For who(m)?||Pour qui est-ce qu'il travaille?
Who does he work for?
|Questions about who is doing something|
|Qui + verb||Who _s?||Qui parle français?
Who speaks French?
|Qui annule la leçon?
Who's canceling the lesson?
Qui + est-ce qui + verb
The next structure is as follows: “Qui est-ce qui + verb ?”. Actually, this is just a more advanced way of asking “Qui + verb ?”, which we saw above. Here are some examples re-doing the previous example sennteces.
Qui est-ce qui parle français ?
Who speaks French?
Avec qui, pour qui, à qui
We’ve just looked at the structure “Qui est-ce que + personal pronoun + verb ?“. Now, we’re going to precede the word “qui” with “avec” (with), “pour” (for) and à (to) to mean both “with whom”, “for whom” and “to whom”. Here are some examples:
Avec qui est-ce que vous habitez ?
With whom do you live? (Who do you live with?)
- Pour qui est-ce que vous travaillez? For whom do you work? (Who do you work for?)
- À qui est-ce que vous envoyez la letter? To whom are you sending the letter. (Who are you sending the letter to?
Other common usages of qui in the context of “who”
Relative pronoun – qui + verb
The word “qui” can also be used as relative pronoun. For example, “The man who dances” or “The lady who sings.
L’homme qui dance avec Marie s’appelle Jacques.
The man who’s dancing with Marie is named Jacques.
Avec qui, pour qui, sans qui
The following example sentences also use “qui” as a relative pronoun. The differences between these sentences and the above examples is here the word “qui” is being preceded by the prepositions: avec qui (with whom), pour qui (for whom) and sans qui (without whom).
The word “lequel” can also be used in the place of qui for these sentences. Our page on relative pronouns also mentions this rule.
C’est l’homme avec qui je travaille.
He’s the man with whom I work. (He’s the man I work with).
Relative pronoun – que + personal pronoun or person
The word “que” can mean “who” when used as a relative pronoun and preceding a person or personal pronoun. For example:
C’est la femme que tu aimes.
She’s the lady who you love.
C’est l’homme que vous invitez. He the man who you’re inviting.
More ways to say who in French
Qui que ce soit – Whoever, whomever
The expression for whoever or whomever is “qui que ce soit”. For example:
Qui que vous soyez, entrez s’il vous plaît !
Whoever you are, please enter!
À qui – whose
The construction “À qui est…?” and “À qui sont…?” can be used to mean “whose” in the context of possession. For example:
À qui est cette voiture ?
Whose car is this?
The answer to this question would be: “La voiture est à moi” (The car is mine).
C’est moi qui – I’m the one who
Many students get confused when trying to express “I’m the one who + verb”. The correct construction for this kind of sentence is: “C’est moi qui suis…”. You cannot say “C’est moi qui est…”.
That would be wrong. The “suis” (as in je suis, first-person singular form of être, to be) is in agreement with moi.
- C’est moi qui suis responsable. I’m the one who’s responsible. (CORRECT)
- C’est moi qui est responsable. (WRONG)
French expression with “qui” in the context of “who”
The following is a list of expressions which include “qui” in context of “who”.
- À qui ai-je l’honneur ? Who am I speaking with? (used on the phone)
- À qui de droit to whom it my concern (used for formal letter writing)
- À qui le dis-tu ! Tell me about it! No kidding! (literally “you’re telling it to who!”)
- À qui le tour ? Whose turn is it? Who’s next?
- À qui profite le crime ? Who profits from this?
- À qui veut l’entendre? To anyone who would listen.
Congratulations! Now you know how to use qui (who) in French. Now check out our lesson covering how to ask questions in French!