Mastering French Grammar: A Comprehensive Guide to Relative Clauses

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to French Relative Clauses
  2. Types of French Relative Clauses
  3. Relative Pronouns
  4. Common Mistakes & Tips for Success
  5. Practice Exercises & Solutions
  6. Conclusion

Introduction to French Relative Clauses

Mastering French grammar involves understanding the intricacies of sentence structure, and one vital aspect of this is relative clauses. Relative clauses serve the purpose of providing additional information about a noun or pronoun in a sentence. They are particularly useful for making your French sound more fluent and sophisticated.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into French relative clauses, discussing their types, the relative pronouns used, common mistakes, tips for success, and practice exercises to help you gain confidence in using them effectively.

Types of French Relative Clauses

There are two main types of relative clauses in French: restrictive and non-restrictive.

Restrictive Relative Clauses

Restrictive relative clauses are essential to the meaning of the sentence. They provide vital information about the noun they refer to and cannot be omitted without altering the meaning of the sentence. In French, restrictive relative clauses are not separated by commas.


L’homme qui parle est mon professeur de français.

(The man who is speaking is my French teacher.)

In this example, the restrictive relative clause “qui parle” (who is speaking) is necessary for the reader to understand which man is being referred to.

Non-restrictive Relative Clauses

Non-restrictive relative clauses provide supplementary information about a noun, but their removal from the sentence would not significantly affect the meaning. In French, non-restrictive relative clauses are typically separated by commas.


Mon ami, qui est professeur de français, habite à Paris.

(My friend, who is a French teacher, lives in Paris.)

In this example, the non-restrictive relative clause “qui est professeur de français” (who is a French teacher) provides additional information about the friend but is not necessary for understanding the sentence.

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to introduce relative clauses in French. There are four main relative pronouns: qui, que, dont, and où. Additionally, there are compound relative pronouns such as lequel, laquelle, lesquels, and lesquelles.

Qui, Que, Quel(le)(s)

Qui can mean “who” or “which” and is used as a subject or an object of a preposition in a relative clause. It refers to both people and things.


La femme qui travaille ici est très gentille.

(The woman who works here is very kind.)

Que can mean “whom” or “which” and is used as a direct object in a relative clause. It refers to both people and things.


Le livre que j’ai lu est intéressant.

(The book that I read is interesting.)

Lequel, Laquelle, Lesquels, and Lesquelles

These relative pronouns mean “which” and are used as objects of a preposition in a relative clause. They agree in gender and number with the noun they replace and are mainly used for things, although they can occasionally refer to people.


La ville dans laquelle je suis né est magnifique.

(The city in which I was born is beautiful.)


Dont can mean “of which,” “from which,” or “whose” and is used to indicate possession or origin. It can refer to both people and things.


La maison dont les fenêtres sont ouvertes appartient à mon oncle.

(The house whose windows are open belongs to my uncle.)

means “where” or “when” and is used to indicate a location or time. It can refer to both people and things.


Le restaurant nous avons mangé hier était excellent.

(The restaurant where we ate yesterday was excellent.)

Common Mistakes & Tips for Success

  1. Agreement: Make sure that compound relative pronouns (lequel, laquelle, etc.) agree in gender and number with the noun they replace.
  2. Pronoun selection: Ensure you select the appropriate relative pronoun for the context in which it is being used.
  3. Restrictive vs. non-restrictive: Remember that restrictive relative clauses do not require commas, while non-restrictive relative clauses usually do.

Practice Exercises & Solutions

  1. Complete the following sentences with the appropriate relative pronoun:
    a. La chaise je suis assis est confortable.
    b. L’ami de mon frère,
    est médecin, voyage beaucoup.
    c. La voiture __ les phares sont allumés est à moi.
  2. Identify whether the following sentences contain restrictive or non-restrictive relative clauses:
    a. Les étudiants qui étudient régulièrement réussissent souvent.
    b. Mon ami, qui est avocat, adore cuisiner.


  1. a. sur laquelle, b. qui, c. dont
  2. a. Restrictive, b. Non-restrictive


Mastering French relative clauses is essential for elevating your language skills and making your speech more fluent and sophisticated. By understanding the different types of relative clauses and using the appropriate relative pronouns, you will be well on your way to becoming a more proficient French speaker. Keep practicing and applying these concepts in your daily conversations, and soon, French relative clauses will become second nature.

Grammar Theory

Grammar Exercises

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