1. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Hi everybody,

    I was watching The Bourne Identity tonight and I heard him say something (in the beginning, on the boat) that got me thinking. He says "Je ne sais pas que je suis" to mean "I don't know who I am" - my question is about the relative pronoun "que". As I understand it "que" can replace a direct object - I think of the sentence as being "I don't know [the person] who/that I am" - so "que" is replacing "the person" - which is the object of the verb "savoir" - so "que" can replace "the person" since it is a direct object - right? I initially thought "que" should be "qui" - which I understand can replace a subject or an indirect object that is a person - but I couldn't get anywhere with that.

    So is "que" in fact replacing a direct object? I think so, I just want to confirm.

    So if I am correct, if I were to say a sentence like "I don't know who I saw last night", I could use "que" as well, right? Since the person that was seen last night is the object of the verb "to know" - or is it the object of the verb "to see"?

    Thank you very much in advance!
     
  2. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    In my estimation, it's an error.

    "Je ne sais pas qui je suis" - I don't know who I am.
    "Je ne sais pas ce que je suis" - I don't know what I am.
     
  3. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Thank you for takin the time to respond! I don't understand though, why "qui" and not "que"?

    Thanks again!
     
  4. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    Short answer: "qui" must be used for "who":
    I don't know who I am.
    Je ne sais pas qui je suis.

    EDIT: Although this might be better explained by a native...

    Here's an example with "que":
    Je sais que je chante bien.
    I know that I sing well.

    Contrast with:
    Je sais qui chante bien.
    I know who sings well.

    And just for reference:
    Je sais qui je suis.
    I know who I am. (your original question, without the negative)

    Also, here's a link to a longer discussion of "qui" and "que" – explained as the difference between subject and object.

    I hope this helps. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2013
  5. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Thank you very much for the response! Interestingly, it is that website from which I learned this stuff in the first place. As the website says:

    "French students learn is that qui means "who" and que means "that" or "what." In fact, this is not always the case. The choice between qui and que as a relative pronoun has nothing to do with the meaning in English, and everything to do with how the word is used"

    If the sentence requires "qui" then it must be replacing 1) a subject, or 2) an indirect object. But I don't see any prepositions so it can't be replacing an indirect object - so it must be the subject in the dependent clause "The person I am". In the sentence "Je sais qui chante bien" it is easy to see that "qui" is replacing the subject in "I sing well" - it just isn't so apparent to me in the "Je ne sais pas qui je suis" sentence. Is "qui" in fact replacing the subject?

    Thanks again! And please don't think that I am arguing with you all or doubting you, I realize very well that you all are much more knowledgeable about this than I am - I just need to make sense of it in my own mind before using it somewhat blindly.

    :)
     
  6. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Grammars often don't explain very clearly the difference between the relative pronouns qui/que and the interrogative pronouns qui/que.

    Relative pronoun (qui = subject or indirect object; que = direct object):
    Quelqu'un regarde mon frère. → la personne qui regarde mon frère (qui = subject of the relative clause = who)
    Je mange une pomme. → la pomme que je mange (que = direct object of the relative clause = whom)
    Je suis une personne. → la personne que je suis (que = "direct object" of the relative clause = whom) – actually here it is not a direct object but a predicative
    Je donne une pomme à mon frère. → la personne à qui je donne une pomme (à qui = indirect object of the relative clause = to whom)

    Interrogative pronoun (qui = person; que = thing):
    Qui a mangé la pomme ? (qui = interrogative subject pronoun referring to a person = who) → Je ne sais pas qui a mangé la pomme.
    Qui accuse-t-on ? (qui = interrogative direct object pronoun referring to a person = whom) → Je ne sais pas qui on accuse.
    Qui suis-je ? (qui = interrogative "direct object" pronoun referring to a person = whom) → Je ne sais pas qui je suis.
    Que manges-tu ? (que = interrogative direct object pronoun referring to a thing = what) → Je ne sais pas ce que tu manges. (que = direct object relative pronoun; same as in the above section)
    Que suis-je ? (que = interrogative direct object pronoun referring to a thing = what) → Je ne sais pas ce que je suis. (que = direct object relative pronoun; same as in the above section)
    À qui a-t-on donné une pomme ? (à qui = interrogative indirect object pronoun referring to a person = to whom) → Je ne sais pas à qui on a donné une pomme.

    (color code: subject, direct object, indirect object)
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2013
  7. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Wow, thank you both for your very detailed responses - they are very insightful - I think I'll have to digest them for a while but I am sure they will answer my questions. bloomiegirl, please don't delete your latest response, it is quite helpful.

    Thank you all again for taking the time to help me out - I very much appreciate it!

    :)
     
  8. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    Sorry charlesread, it's already gone. But M. Capello's answer is better – really! Not only because it has more examples, but because my generalization was almost right... in other words, it was wrong. :eek: (For instance, it didn't account for "What am I?")

    So if you're here trying to learn French, you might as well use good examples! Use the Maître's post. :)
     
  9. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    OK I think I am getting it - just one thing - I thought être was intransitive, so why would one use a direct object interrogative pronoun?

    Thanks again for all of your awesome help!

    :)
     
  10. bloomiegirl

    bloomiegirl Senior Member

    New York
    US English
    @ charlesread : What's your sentence for the construction with "direct object interrogative pronoun"?

    Great that you're getting it. :)
     
  11. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    France
    French
    As Maître Capello pointed out, être doesn't have to be intransitive, it can definitely take a direct object : être quelqu'un, être quelque chose, être un homme, être une femme.

    I don't think my post will help you any more as Maître Capello has explained it very well already, but keep in mind that qui refers to the subject that perfoms an action when used as a relative pronoun, and to a person when used as an interrogative pronoun. On the other hand, que refers to a complement when used as a relative pronoun and to a thing when used as an interrogative pronoun.


    • La personne qui a mangé une pomme...qui isn't used because of the word personne, but because the word personne is the subject of the verb manger.
    • La machine qui est en panne... → a machine is a thing, but as it's the subject of the verb être, it requires qui.
    • La femme que j'ai vue... → a woman is a person, but as this word is the complement of the verb voir (while je is its subject), it requires que.

    As you can see, the function is the predominant feature amoung relative pronouns. On the other hand, what prevails among interrogative pronouns is the gender. Don't mix it up!


    • Qui as-tu vu ? qui refers to a person (and is a complement)
    • Qui est mort ? qui refers to a person (and is a subject)
    • Qu'as-tu vu ? → que (qu') refers to a thing (and is a complement)
     
  12. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    I think I got it! Thank you so much - it all makes sense now! Thanks again everybody for humoring me!

    I'm sure I'll look back at this in some time and laugh at myself - all part of the learning process I suppose.

    Thanks again everybody!
     

Share This Page