Interrogative pronouns and determiners in French

What are interrogative pronouns?

Interrogative pronouns (les pronoms interrogatifs) are qui, que, quoi and lequel. We use them in questions and sentences to replace the name of the person or thing about which we’re asking a question. The interrogative determiner (le déterminant interrogatif) quel always comes before a noun.

To learn about other French question words, go to our page on questions; to learn more about interrogative pronouns, read on for easy examples, clear explanations and free exercises to help you practise.

Example

Qui est donc cette jeune fille?

Que fait-elle? À quoi pense-t-elle?

Lequel de ces pays en Asie est le sien?

Quelle langue parle-t-elle?

Quel est le nom de son chapeau?

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How to use qui, que and quoi in French

The interrogative pronouns qui, que, quoi are invariable in French. This means that they stay the same regardless of the gender and number of the noun they refer to. They can refer to people (qui) or things (que/quoi). Their usage depends on their function in the question.

Example:
Qui est cette jeune fille?Who is this girl?
Que fait-elle?What is she doing?
À quoi pense-t-elle?What is she thinking about?
Function People Things
Subject qui? que?/quoi?
Direct object qui? que?/quoi?
Indirect object à qui/de qui? à quoi/de quoi?
Adverbial construction par/pour/avec qui? par/pour/avec quoi?

Lequel

The interrogative pronoun lequel corresponds to the English which: It offers a choice between members of a group of people or things that have already been mentioned. Lequel is variable and must agree with the number and gender of the noun that it replaces.

Example:
Lequel de ces pays en Asie est le sien?Which of these countries in Asia is her country?
– Nous avons visité de nombreux pays.
Lequel as-tu préféré ?– We visited a lot of countries.
– Which one did you prefer?

The interrogative pronoun lequel can also be used after a preposition. When lequel comes after à or de, the interrogative pronoun and the preposition are combined into one word.

Preposition Masculine Feminine Masc. plural Fem. plural
à auquel à laquelle auxquels auxquelles
de duquel de laquelle desquels desquelles

How to use quel in French

Quel is an interrogative determiner (déterminant interrogatif or adjectif interrogatif), meaning that it always comes directly before a noun. Quel functions as an adjective; it modifies the noun and agrees with its number and gender.

Example:
Quel chapeau porte-t-elle?Which hat is she wearing?
Quelle langue parle-t-elle?Which language does she speak?
Quels chapeaux portent-ils?Which hats do they wear?
Quelles langues parle-t-elle?Which languages does she speak?