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FRENCH INDEX FRENCH - grammar - WHICH 05 GRAMMAR: INDEX


THAT WHICH, THOSE WHO

You already know how to say 'that' (WHICH 01) and 'which' (WHICH 03) ... but suppose you want to say 'that which'? Usually you'd need that wording for something a bit 'non-specific'. Like "he didn't know what he should do" (where 'what' in English means 'that which' - ie "he didn't know that which he should do", ie "the non-specific thing that he should do").

So we have "il ne savait pas ce qu'il devait faire" (where 'que' + 'il' = 'qu'il'). In actual fact a French person would probably say "il ne savait pas que faire" (much as an English person would probably say "he didn't know what to do"), but we're looking at this 'the long way round' today, so you can see how 'ce que' ('that which') "fits" into the overall scheme of things.

So 'ce' is non-specific, for 'that'. And 'que' is non-specific, for 'which'. But you'll remember from WHICH 03 that sometimes you use 'que' and sometimes you use 'qui', for 'which'. The same rules apply for 'ce que' and 'ce qui' as they did for 'que' and 'qui' - the *subject* of a following verb will take 'qui' and the *object* of a following verb will take 'que'.

Where 'ce qui' is used, we would sometimes translate that in English as 'the one who' or 'the one which' or 'the one that' or even 'he who', as shown below. Not all the possible forms of wording 'sound right' so you need to gauge which one 'fits best' for French-to-English translation, each time you meet 'ce qui', 'ce que' (vague) or 'celui qui' or 'celui que' (a shade more specific) or similar.

The one who has money is not always happy. Ce qui a de l'argent n'est pas toujours heureux.
The one which has money is not always happy. Ce qui a de l'argent n'est pas toujours heureux.
The one that has money is not always happy. Ce qui a de l'argent n'est pas toujours heureux.
He who has money is not always happy. Ce qui a de l'argent n'est pas toujours heureux.

And of course there are 'plurals' to deal with also ('those who', 'those that', 'the ones that', 'the ones which', etc.), where 'ceux' (from the 'celui' series on WHICH 02) is generally used.

Those who have money are not always happy. Ceux qui ont de l'argent ne sont pas toujours heureux.

The same applies for 'things' (ie non-people).

All that which glitters is not (made of) gold. Tout ce qui brille n'est pas d'or.
All that glitters is not gold. Tout ce qui brille n'est pas d'or.

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