FR: qu'est-ce qui / qu'est-ce que / qui est-ce qui / qui est-ce que

Could someone please explain how you can distinguish between "qu'est-ce que" and "qu'est-ce qui". For example: "qu'est-ce qui te fait mal"/ "qu'est-ce que vous voulez". I'm not sure when to use which. And what about "qui (est-ce qui)" and "qui est-ce que"? Cheers!

Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one.
This is a confusing topic, in part because it is hard to understand it without considering all four expressions at the same time... but they look very similar!
We reproduce here an edited portion of one member's explanation, which is a very nice summary of the four expressions. For more information, please read the whole thread.

The first qui/que (Qui/Qu'est-ce…) and the second one (… est-ce qui/que) play different grammatical roles and indicate different things:
  • The first refers to the nature of what you are inquiring about: is it a person or a thing? Qui est-ce… is for people and Qu'est-ce… is for things.
  • The second refers to the grammatical function of the unknown person or thing in your question: is it the subject or the complement of a verb? …est-ce qui is for subjects and …est-ce que is for complements.
Examples:

Qui est-ce qui fait X ? → Who is doing X?
The first qui indicates that you're asking about a person ("who"), while the second qui implies that the unknown person performs the action of the verb: this person is doing X.
Short form: Qui fait X ?

Qui est-ce que tu as vu ? → Whom did you see? or commonly Who did you see?
The qui indicates that you're asking about a person ("who" or "whom"), while the que implies that this unknown person is the complement of the verb "to see": the unknown person got seen, and tu is the one who saw them.
Short form: Qui as-tu vu ? (requires inversion)

Note that the English language requires (theoretically, in formal contexts) two different words to ask about people: Who = Qui + qui while Whom = Qui + que.


Qu'est-ce qui fait X ? → What is doing X?
The que (elided to qu') indicates that you're asking about a thing ("what"), while the qui implies that this unknown thing performs the action of the verb: the thing is doing X.
No short form in everyday usage.

Qu'est-ce que tu as vu ? → What did you see?
The first que (elided to qu') indicates that you're asking about a thing ("what"), while the second que implies that the unknown thing is the complement of the verb "to see": tu is the person who saw something, the unknown thing is what got seen.
Short form: Qu'as-tu vu ? (requires inversion)
 
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  • Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Qu'est-ce qui will be the subject of the sentence
    - Qu'est-ce qui te fait mal ? - What hurts you?
    [Subject = Qu'est-ce qui/What ; object = te/you]

    Qu'est-ce que will be the direct object
    - Qu'est-ce que vous voulez ? - What do you want?
    [Subject = vous/you; object = Qu'est-ce que/what]
     

    jemappellekelly

    Senior Member
    English & Français
    The first que/qui tells you whether the answer to your question will be a person (qui) or an thing (que).
    The second que/qui tells you whether the answer to your question will be the subject or the object.

    QUI
    SUJET: Qui est-ce qui mange? Il mange.
    OBJECT: Qui est-ce que vous aimez? J'aime James.

    QUE
    SUJET: Qu'est-ce qui te fait mal? Mon dos me fait mal.
    OBJET: Qu'est-ce que vous voulez? Je veux un chaton.

    When it is Qui...qui or Que...que, you can get rid of the est-ce part:
    Qui est-ce qui mange? --> Qui mange?
    Qu'est-ce que vous voulez? --> Que voulez-vous?
     

    sensa

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    What does "qu-est-ce qui?" mean? I thought it would mean "who?" because of the word "wui", but in this sentence, it means "why?":

    Qu'est-ce qui vous a retardé?
     

    jierbe31

    Senior Member
    French from France
    I'm afraid you got it all wrong!:D
    Qu'est-ce qui just stands for what.
    Qu'est-ce qui vous a retardé ? = What delayed you?
    Do not mistake it for Qui est-ce qui, meaning who.
    Qui est-ce qui vous a retardé ? = Who delayed you?
    Hope it helps.:)
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'm not sure if this will help or not, but I think of this structure as
    What is it that (slowed you down?)
     

    juliobenjimino

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    try this link http://french.about.com/b/a/015046.htm
    it really helped me when I was trying to work out the diff between ce que and ce qui (and ce dont and ce quoi).

    Basically-

    qu est-ce qui = what (when "what" is the subject ie doing something)
    qu est-ce que = what (when "what" is the object)

    qu est-ce qui vous derange.... whats bothering you
    qu est-ce que tu fais ... what are you doing

    bonne chance!
     

    sensa

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    What is the difference between qui est-ce qui and qui est-ce que?

    My book says in qui est-ce que, the qui is the person and the que is the complement of the verb.

    what is a complement du verb?

    My book also says "qui est-ce qui" is the subject and "qui est-ce que" is the complement direct but both are under the heading of "personnes"

    so, tell me if I have this straight:
    qui-est-ce qui est à la porte? sujet-person
    qui est-ce que
    vous avez-vu? objet direct-person


    while "qu'est-ce qui" is the subject and "qu'est-ce que" is the complément direct under the heading "choses".

    qu'est-ce qui te dérange? sujet-thing
    qu'est-ce que
    tu veux? objet direct- thing
    Is qui-est-ce qui just a long way of saying "qui"?
     

    Bisou82

    Senior Member
    France - French
    "qui est-ce qui" is definitely the equivalent of "qui".

    "Qui est-ce qui" will be subject since it can be replaced by "qui".

    "Qui est-ce que" is complement direct indeed: "qui est-ce que ca dérange?" for example. So: "ca derange qui?". qui is then cpt direct.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    "Qui est-ce qui" is the equivalent of "qui" when performing the verb. So

    "Qui est à la porte" equals "qui est-ce qui est à la porte".

    However, when you are asking "who" is having the verb done to them you have to use the longer form "qui est-ce que" only.

    "Qui est-ce que tu as vu à la porte ?" not (in standard grammar) "qui tu as vu à la porte ?".
     

    omahieu

    Senior Member
    Belgium and French
    what is a complement du verb?
    It's another term for an object (here direct object, but you can also have À qui est-que tu as prêté ce livre ? although I would prefer À qui as-tu prêté ce livre ?)

    We often use the terms COD (complément d'objet direct) or COI (complément d'objet indirect.)
     

    itka

    Senior Member
    français
    so, tell me if I have this straight:
    qui-est-ce qui est à la porte? sujet-person:tick:
    qui est-ce que
    vous avez-vu? objet direct-person:tick:

    qu'est-ce qui te dérange? sujet-thing:tick:
    qu'est-ce que
    tu veux? objet direct- thing:tick:
    You perfectly got it.

    Some examples :

    Qui/Qui est-ce qui arrive ? - mon ami arrive. (person, subject = My friend is arriving)
    Qui vois-tu ?/Qui est-ce que tu vois ? - Je vois mon ami (person, object = I'm seeing my friend )

    Qu'est-ce qui arrive ? - L'autobus arrive (thing, subject = the bus is arriving)

    Qu'est-ce que tu vois ? - je vois l'autobus. (thing, object = I'm seeing the bus)

    The "long forms" are equivalent of "short forms" but much more used specially in spoken language.
     

    juninho8

    Senior Member
    united kingdom - english
    Qu’est-ce que t’inspire leur mauvais début en Ligue des champions?

    I came across this sentence in an interview i was reading. I can read it basically says "What do you think of their bad start to the championship?"

    But what I don't get is "Qu'est-ce que" is not the subject Qu'est-ce qui would mak more sense so why use inspire and te pronoun?

    thanks
     
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    Monsieur Hoole

    Senior Member
    Canada English
    because the subject of the sentence is leur mauvais début which is causing a certain reaction on the part of the interviewee.

    M.H.:)
     

    sylphid dust

    Senior Member
    English, Trinidad and Tobago
    Hi,

    can someone PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE explain to me IN DETAIL the difference between these two phrases? I have an exam tomorrow and I'm getting tested on this and I am SO confused- my teacher says one is for the subject and one is for the object but that doesn't make it any clearer! I need a very detailed explanation please, with many examples if you can.

    thanks,
    Sylphid
     

    Gil

    Senior Member
    Français, Canada
    Examples:
    Qui est-ce qui te fait pleurer? Ted makes you cry (subject)
    Qui est-ce que tu as rencontré? You met Ted (object)
    ...and Good luck with your exam
    Hope this helps
     

    sylphid dust

    Senior Member
    English, Trinidad and Tobago
    no it doesn't really help because if I get fill-in-the-blanks for the exam, I get confused and don't know which one to use- French is not like English where I can easily identify an object or a subject
     

    tilt

    Senior Member
    French French
    Qui and que are puzzling for English people, because they can be two much different thing in French.

    -> When they are interrogative pronouns, the way to use them is qui for people and que for things.
    -> In your sentences, they are relative pronouns, that introduce a subordinate clause. The rule to remember is that qui is subject of the subordinate, whereas que is its object. In other words, if the subordinate shows a subject, use que ; and if not, use qui. Now, if you can't identify subjects and objects, I'm not sure we can help you more than this ! :eek:
     

    OrelYY

    New Member
    France, french
    Examples:
    Qui est-ce qui te fait pleurer? Ted makes you cry (subject)
    Qui est-ce que tu as rencontré? You met Ted (object)
    ...and Good luck with your exam
    Hope this helps
    That really well explained! But some more sentences can help you:

    "Qui est-ce qui" always used for the subject
    _ Max (subject) a frappé à la porte. Qui est-ce qui a frappé à la porte? (Who knocked at the door?)

    "Qui est-ce que" always used for the object
    _ Tu as embrassé Elise. Qui est-ce que tu as embrassé? Who did you kiss? You kissed Elise (object)
     

    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    OrelYY said:
    "Qui est-ce que" always used for the object
    _ Tu as embrassé Elise. Qui est-ce que tu as embrassé? Who Whom did you kiss? You kissed Elise (object)
    Exactly, and the "object" status will be even easier to see if you use the (correct but falling out out of use) English object pronoun whom. :)


    sylphid dust said:
    get confused and don't know which one to use- French is not like English where I can easily identify an object or a subject
    Actually French subjects and objects work much the same as English ones. Regardless of the language, one clue that you will have an object is if you can already find the subject, the part the controls the verb.

    Qui est-ce ___ tu as embrassé ?
    Who is it ___ you kissed?

    The verb = embrasser, "to kiss." We already know who did the kissing (you did), so we have the subject = tu. This means that you aren't going to need a subject because you already have one. Therefore you need an object. And the pronoun for an object is que.
    -->
    Qui est-ce que tu as embrassé ? / Who is it whom you kissed?

    Compare to another example:

    Qui est-ce ___ a embrassé Elise ?
    Who is it ___ kissed Elise?

    Again, the verb = embrasser, "to kiss." But this time though we know who got kissed (Elise did, the object), we don't know who did the kissing. So we don't have the subject. Therefore you are going to need the subject pronoun, qui.
    --> Qui est-ce qui a embrassé Elise ? / Who is it who kissed Elise?
     

    Merpero

    Senior Member
    English-United Kingdom
    To understand this nGeorgiev, the difference between "qui" and "que", you have to know about the grammatical concept of SUBJECT AND OBJECT. May I ask whether you have come across this concept of subject and object at all, before I (or perhaps somebody else!) decides how to explain it to you?
     

    Merpero

    Senior Member
    English-United Kingdom
    Firstly, I agree with Kelly B that it really helps to make things clearer if you break down "Qu'est-ce que", or "Qu-est-ce qui" into its constituent parts, that is, "WHAT-IS-IT-THAT?...". That really helped me when I was first learning French.

    Secondly, It can be confusing when you're first learning French, because you're told that QUI means WHO. Then, later on, you are told that "qui" doesn't always mean who. It is also sometimes used to mean THAT, as in "Qu'est-ce qui?..."("what-is-it-that..?).

    Thirdly, as the others have already explained above:
    Que - is used when the "that" part of the phrase is an object/the thing having the verb done to it. Thus, in "Qu'est-ce que vous dîtes", we use que(and not qui), because the "that" that we are asking about is, the thing that you're saying, and the thing that you're saying is an OBJECT because it is having the verb "say"/dîtes" done to it.

    Fourthly - Qui- is used when the "that" part of the phrase is a SUBJECT/the thing doing the verb. Thus, in "Qu'est-ce qui se passe?", we use qui(and not que)because the "that" that we are asking about is the thing that is doing the verb. I suppose the subject here is "something", because it is "something" that is "doing" the "happening" (of course, we don't know exactly what that "something" is yet)
     

    ngeorgiev

    Member
    Bulgarian
    heya guys there is something that has been bothering me.

    Qui est-ce qui a casse la fenetre?
    Qui est-ce que vous avez vu?

    I know that we use qui when we have a question directed to the subject and que when have question directed to direct object. It seems to me that in these two questions above both should use qui, no??

    merci d'avance
     

    Donaldos

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Why?

    Who broke the window? (subject) => Qui est-ce qui ...
    Who(m) did you see? (object) => Qui est-ce que ...
     

    sun-and-happiness

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    When subject of the sentence, the question form is expressed by qu'est-ce qui:
    Délicieux? Qu'est-ce qui est délicieux?

    Who, whom...is expressed as follows:
    When subject of the sentence, by qui or qui est-ce qui:
    Qui est-ce qui a réservé la table?
    When object of the sentence, by qui or qui est-ce que:
    Qui est-ce que vous avez payé?

    Je voudrais savoir si la forme "qu'est-ce qui" est la même chose que "qui est-ce qui" et si est utilisé la forme abrégée pour la reconnaître. Merci beaucoup d'avance.
     

    itka

    Senior Member
    français
    "qu'est-ce qui" ==> the answer is a thing (*que / quoi est-ce qui...)
    "qui est-ce qui" ==> the answer is a person (never shortened)
     

    Krom le Barbare

    Member
    French
    Exact.
    Mais dans les livres, tu trouveras le plus souvent la question sous la forme "Qui avez-vous payé ?", qui est (théoriquement) plus correcte.
    La forme "Qui est-ce que vous avez payé ?" appartient au langage parlé, même si tu peux tout à fait l'écrire.
     

    oxcigene

    New Member
    English
    Please help me understanding these two words ("qu'est que" and "qu'est qui") correctly and completely. Though i could understand, i am not able to use them correctly?

    What is their exact meaning and when to use them.

    For example, i came across this sentence:

    Japan:un an après le séisme, qu'est-ce qui a changé ?

    What is the literal translation in english?
     
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    paysage

    Member
    French
    qu'est-ce que/qui = what

    Qu'est-ce qui se passe? What's going on?
    Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas? What's wrong?
    Qu'est-ce que tu fais? What are you doing?
    Qu'est-ce qui a changé? What has changed?
     

    atcheque

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    Oui,

    "Qu'est-ce que tu vois ? un lampadaire
    "Qu'est-ce qui éclaire la rue ? un lampadaire.
     

    hydras15

    New Member
    English
    I'm having a really hard time understanding when to use each. I know that Qui refers to a person, and that Que refers to a thing, but when do you use the endings of these questions? I have a native french speaker as a teacher, and she doesn't know how to explain it to me, it seems like. She grasps for how to explain it in English, and my book isn't very clear either.
     
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    J.F. de TROYES

    Senior Member
    francais-France
    In the common usage qui... ? is replaced by the phrase qui est-ce qui ... ? when the interrogative pronoun is a subject and by qui est-ce que ... ? when the interrogative is an object :

    Referring to a person : Qui / Qui est-ce qui téléphone ? ( subject ) Qui attends-tu ? / Qui est-ce que tu attends ?


    Referring to a thing : Que is replaced by the phrase by qu'est-ce que... ? :

    Qu'est-ce que tu comptes faire ? / Que comptes-tu faire ? ( or even : Tu comptes faire quoi ? )

    Qu'est-ce qui is used only to refer to an impersonal subject :

    Qu'est-ce qui est arrivé ? ( il est arrivé un accident ) ; Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas ? - Mais ça va bien !
    Qu'est-ce qui se passe ? = Que se passe-t-il ?

    These pronominal forms take the place of the impersonal forms il or ça : Il ne s'est rien passé ; ça se passe bien.

    Hope it helps.
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Hi,

    I see where your confusion comes from (it's hardly surprising). The thing is, the first Qui.../Que... and the last ...qui/...que stand for different things.

    * The first ones refer to the "gender" of the noun (is it a person or a thing?), so it should be Qui est-ce... with people and Qu'est-ce... with things.
    .
    * The last ones refer to the function of the noun (is a subject or a complement of a verb?), so it should be ...est-ce qui with a subject and ...est-ce que with
    ...a complement. For instance:

    Qui est-ce qui fait X ? → Who is doing X?
    The first qui implies you're talking about a person ("who") while the second qui implies it performs the action of the verb: this person is doing X (Who is doing X? "WHO" is).

    Qui est-ce que tu as vu ? → Whom or Who did you see?
    The qui implies you're talking about a person ("who" or "whom") while the que implies it is the complement of the verb to see: you saw someone. Note that the English language requires (theoretically, in formal contexts) two different words too: Who = Qui + qui while Whom = Qui + que.

    Qu'est-ce qui marche ? → What is working?
    The que implies you're talking about a thing ("what") while the qui implies it performs the action of the verb: the thing is working (What is working? "WHAT" is).

    Qu'est-ce que tu as vu ? → What did you see?
    The first que implies you're talking about a thing ("what") while the second que implies it is the complement of the verb to see: you saw something.
     
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    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    For persons:
    subject: qui/qui est-ce qui --> Qui téléphone? Qui est-qui téléphone? --> Who is calling?
    direct object: qui/qui est-ce que --> Qui as-tu vu? Qui est-ce que tu as vu? --> Who did you see?
    prepositional object: qui/qui est-ce que --> À qui penses-tu? À qui est-ce que tu penses? --> Who(m) are you thinking about?

    For things:
    subject: qu'est-ce que --> Qu'est-ce qu'il se passe? --> What's happening?
    direct object: que/qu'est-ce que --> Que as-tu vu? Qu'est-ce que tu as vu? --> What did you see?
    prepositional: quoi/quoi est-ce que --> À quoi penses-tu? À quoi est-ce que tu penses? --> What are you thinking about?

    Hope it helps
     
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    lebanna

    Member
    English - Canada
    Ma réponse est pour TROYES, ODDMANIA. MAIS SURTOUT NINO83;

    Comme Hydras, j'ai trouvé ce sujet très difficile à comprendre. Après avoir serré lu les premier deux réponses à Hydras, je commence à comprendre, mais quand j'ai lu ta réponse j'ai trouvé une irrégularité. Ci-dessus tu as dit For things: qu'est-ce que, e.g. Qu'est-ce qu'il se passé? J'ai compris que pour le sujet, on doit écrire qui à la fin, pas qu... Est-ce que tu peux me dire si c'est correct? Si tu es d'accord, peut-être c'est un petit signe que finalement je comprends plus.

    Merci Troyes, Oddmania et Nino83, lebanna
     
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    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    Comme Hydras, j'ai trouvé ce sujet très difficile à comprendre. Après avoir serré lu les premier deux réponses à Hydras, je commence à comprendre, mais quand j'ai lu ta réponse j'ai trouvé une irrégularité. Ci-dessus tu as dit For things: qu'est-ce que, e.g. Qu'est-ce qu'il se passé? J'ai compris que pour le sujet, on doit écrire qui à la fin, pas qu... Est-ce que tu peux me dire si c'est correct? Si tu es d'accord, peut-être c'est un petit signe que finalement je comprends plus.
    You're right, that's because impersonal verbs are sort of exceptions. You can write qui se passe or qu'il se passe indifferently. Here's what I've found on the web:

    * When the verb is always impersonal (such as falloir for example), only qu'il is correct. Thus, you need to write Qu'est-ce qu'il faut...? instead of Qu'est-ce qui faut...?
    * When the verb is being impersonal but can be "personal" in other contexts (such as se passer), then you can write both.

    When you say Qu'est-ce qu'il/qui se passe? ("What's going on?"), the verb is being used impersonally, but it can be used like any other verb if you say Tout se passe comme prévu ("Everything is going as planned"), with tout as the subject. Thus, both ways are possible according to the rule.
     

    Nino83

    Senior Member
    Italian
    It's true that it is an exception, but in interrogative sentences it's usual to use qu'est-ce as subject with impersonal verbs.
    The other use I know is with verbs which take the dative construction, like faire mal, plaisir.
    For example: Qu'est-ce qui te fait mal? or Qu'est-ce qui te plaît?

    Oddmania, est-ce que vous connaissez autres cas où est obligatoire employer qu'est-ce qui?

    Merci
     
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    JimiBlue

    New Member
    Dutch
    Can: Qui est-ce qui êtes-vous (the long form of Qui êtes-vous) be considered grammatically correct? I tried googling this phrase, but it doesn't show up. I assume it's just never used if it is correct.

    Est la phrase "Qui est-ce qui êtes-vous?" grammaticalement correcte? J'ai essayé de la rechercher sur google mais sans résultat. Si c'est correct, je présume qu'elle n'est jamais utilisée.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Nope, if you wanted a phrase with this type of structure it would be qui est-ce que vous êtes ? It's pretty rare, though, I think.
    Who is it that you are? i.e. Who is [this person] that you are? where this person is a direct object - so it's an interrogative form of you are this person, more or less.
     
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    Maître Capello

    Mod et ratures
    French – Switzerland
    Qui est-ce qui êtes-vous ? :cross: (A verb can have only one subject but here you used two, namely the relative pronoun qui [which is always a subject, never an object] and vous.)
    Qui est-ce que vous êtes ? :tick: (correct, not the most natural way to put it, but not that uncommon either)
    Qui êtes-vous ? :tick::tick: (Note: here qui is an interrogative predicative pronoun.)
     

    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    J'ai eu la même impression que Kelly. Je ne me souviens pas avoir jamais entendu "Qui est-ce que vous êtes ?" et cette tournure ne me viendrait jamais à l'esprit. En revanche, "Qu'est-ce que vous êtes ?" (= What are you?) ne m'interpelle pas plus que ça, et ça s'entend souvent dans les films fantastiques ou de science-fiction.
     

    FreddieFirebird

    Senior Member
    USA
    English
    I think I understand the difference between qui est-ce que and qui est-ce qui...

    If I want to say "Whom do you find pretty", can I then say "Qui est-ce que tu trouves belle?"
    Qui, because I need a person, and que because that person is the object (the person whom you find pretty).

    Qui est-ce qui est belle = who is pretty. Qui for a person, 2nd qui for the subject (that person herself is beautiful)
     
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