C'est la dame dont j'ai parlé.

I know that the above sentence is correct, but is it incorrect to say—

C'est la dame de laquelle j'ai parlé.

C'est le monsieur duquel j'ai parlé.

If so, why?

  • I read this from about.com: What's the difference between dont and duquel? You need dont when the preposition you're replacing is de by itself. You need duquel when de is part of a prepositional phrase, such as près de, à côté de, en face de, etc. But I'm really not clear on that. – temporary_user_name Jul 22 '14 at 18:47
  • En commençant une recherche pour répondre je suis tombée sur cette question sur FrenchLanguage mais elle ne semble pas encore avoir eu de réponse satisfaisant celui qui a posé la question. – None Jul 22 '14 at 18:55
  • Mon Dieu, Gilles ne savait pas quelquechose sur la langue francaise?? Non!!!!!!! – temporary_user_name Jul 22 '14 at 19:09
  • quelque chose** – temporary_user_name Jul 22 '14 at 21:09

In general in cases such as this, dont is interchangeable with duquel etc and, in the animate case, de qui. In practice, dont appears to be more common.

Principal cases where dont is strongly preferred are "neuter" cases such as ce dont j'ai besoin, or cases where dont specifies a whole clause (un homme dont les yeux sont bleus/dont il me semble que je l'ai vu quelque part). Note that informal or "popular" usage often allows a generic que in these cases.

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  • I can't imagine anyone saying un homme dont il me semble que je l'ai vu quelque part it would be un homme qu'il me semble avoir vu quelque part, dont implies a "possession" relation ship. But you could say: un homme dont je crois que les yeux sont bleux. – None Jul 23 '14 at 7:15
  • Yes, it's a rarer construction. It is attested by some speakers, though. (But if that particular example doesn't work for you, presumably you still agree with the general point that "dont" specifying a clause is not interchangeable with "duquel" etc?) – Neil Coffey Jul 23 '14 at 13:57

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