Relative pronoun: ce qui = what / which.
We use what to express the thing that.
Il ne comprend pas ce qui se passe = He doesn't understand what's going on
(Il ne comprend pas la chose qui se passe). = (He doesn't understand the thing that is happening).
Which / What is the subject of the verb that follows.
Ce qui est certain, c’est qu’on va bien s’amuser ! (ce qui sujet de est certain) = What is certain is that we are going to have a lot of fun! (what is subject of is certain)
Ce qui est certain, c’est que je meurs de faim ! (ce qui sujet de est certain) = What is certain is that I am starving! (what is subject of is certain)
Tu sais ce qui me ferait plaisir ? (ce qui sujet de ferait plaisir) = You know what I'd like to do? (what is the subject of would like to do)
Vous savez ce qui me ferait plaisir ? (ce qui = sujet de ferait plaisir) = You know what would please me? (what = subject of would please)
Note: This is also used to emphasize or highlight a part of the sentence.
De manière informelle (Informally) : Ton sourire me plaît. / De manière formelle (In a formal way) : Votre sourire me plaît. = I like your smile.
De manière informelle (Informally) : Ce qui me plaît, c’est ton sourire. / De manière formelle (In a formal way): Ce qui me plaît, c’est votre sourire. = What I like is your smile.
When what is used with the verb arrive in French = arriver.
In the personal use, the action expressed by the verb to arrive is done by a noun or a pronoun which can be taken over by the relative pronoun qui:
Une chance m’arrive. = A chance happens to me.
La chance qui m’arrive. = The chance that happens to me.
Ce qui m’arrive. = What happens to me.
Besides the verb arriver = to arrive, there are other verbs that allow the construction with what. We can have personal constructions of this type:
Cette chemise me plaît. = I like this shirt.
Je porte la chemise qui me plaît. = I am wearing the shirt I like.
Je porte ce qui me plaît. = I am wearing what I like.
Un médicament me soulagera. = A medicine will make me feel better.
Le médicament qui me soulagera. = The medicine that will make me feel better.
Ce qui me soulagera. = This / That / Which will make me feel better.
The expression ce qui is never used with the verb falloir.
Never say: ce qui me faudra. = what I will need.
Tips to know:
Ce qui (What) is subject. Subject of the verb that follows it.
Ils ont réussi leur examen, ce qui est surprenant. = They passed their exam, which is surprising.
The pronoun that never elides. That is, it never turns into qu' before a vowel like the relative pronoun que.
Examples of these useful French expressions are:
Ce qui est rare est cher. = What is rare is expensive.
"Que" is elided before a vowel.
Je ne sais pas ce qu’il veut. = I don't know what he wants.
Je ne sais pas ce qu’elle veut. = I don't know what she wants.
- Voici ce qui m’arrive. = Here's what's happening to me.
- Il me reste beaucoup de choses à faire. Voici ce qui me reste à faire. = I have a lot of things left to do. This is what I have to do.
- Je dois calculer combien d’argent il me reste. Voici ce qui me reste d’argent. = I have to figure out how much money I have left. This is what I have left.
Examples to use in a dialogue:
- Que se passe-t-il ? = What's going on?
- Ce qui se passe c'est qu'elle n'est pas attentive. = What's going on is that she's not paying attention.
- Nous ne savions pas ce qui se passait. = We didn't know what was going on.
- Vous ne savez pas ce qui vous arrive. = You don't know what's happening to you.
- On se demande bien ce qui lui a pris. = We wonder what got into her.
- Je te recommande de faire ce qui convient. = I recommend you do the right thing.
- Dans ce bureau, le personnel fait ce qui lui semble bon de faire. = In this office, the staff does what they think is right.
What's up? How do you feel now? Good, I hope! Do you want to go further in using this relative pronoun when expressing yourself and need some guidance in this mastery? I can help. Book a lesson with me.