Interrogative Pronouns

Introduction

The interrogative pronouns are qui, que, quoi, lequel, quel. In a question, they replace the noun that we’re asking about (for other typical question words see Questions).

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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Qui, que, quoi

The interrogative pronouns qui, que, quoi are invariable in French. They can refer to either people (qui) or things (que/quoi). Their usage changes depending 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?
functionpeoplethings
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 is used when the speaker has a limited number of choices. Lequel is variable and must match the noun that it replaces. We use which in a similar way in English.

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 is used with à or de, the interrogative pronoun and the preposition are combined into one word.

prepositionmasculinefemininemasc. pluralfem. plural
à auquel à laquelle auxquels auxquelles
de duquel de laquelle desquels desquelles

Quel as adjective

Quel is an interrogative adjective. Interrogative adjectives (called l’adjectif interrogatif in French) always come directly before a noun (they function as an adjective modifying the noun). Quel agrees in number and gender with the noun that it is modifying.

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?