I saw this sentence on Duolingo:

Vous pouvez inviter qui vous voulez.

I am wondering why "qui" is used here instead of "que".

If we "undo" the pronoun, it looks like "qui" here is replacing a direct object:

Vous pouvez inviter [Marc]. Vous voulez [Marc].

(Similarly, I'll make up an example of another sentence where a relative pronoun replaces a direct object:

Vous mangez [la pomme]. Vous prenez [la pomme]. --> Vous mangez la pomme que vous prenez.


So, can someone show me where I'm mistaken? Why is "qui" used here instead of "que"?

  • 1
    In the first ssentence, to use "que", you should say "Vous pouvez inviter la personne que vous voulez". It is similar to the "who" in english. "You may invite who you wish", or "You may invite the person you wish"
    – Random
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 7:07
  • 1
    @Random: oh, thank you for your example sentence, because that example sentence (with "la personne" written there) does follow exactly the constructions saw when learning about the relative pronouns "qui" and "que". My problem sentence "Vous pouvez inviter qui vous voulez" does not have this familiar construction, so this makes me wonder if I have not yet learned the construction being used here. Is "qui" here even a relative pronoun, or is it something else?
    – silph
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 7:39
  • 1
    I'm a little hesitant to accept your English example, however, unless I understand the underlying grammar. I think there have been times when the English "who" needs to be translated with "que" (and the English "that" needs to be translated with "qui"), depending on if "who" and "that" is a pronoun replacing an object, or if it is replacing a subject.
    – silph
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 7:44

2 Answers 2


Both examples you present are not equivalent. Compare:

Case 1

Vous invitez qui vous voulez.
You invite who(ever) you wish.

Vous mangez ce que vous voulez.
You eat what(ever) you wish.

Case 2

Vous invitez (celui) qui vous plait.
You invite (the one) who pleases you.

Vous mangez ce qui vous plait.
You eat what pleases you.

Case 3

Vous venez avec l'ami que vous avez invité.
You come with the friend (that/whom) you invited.

Vous mangez la pomme que vous avez prise.
You eat the apple (that/which) you have taken.

Case 4

Je viens avec l'ami qui m'a répondu.
I come with the friend who answered me.

Je regrette cette pomme qui m'a donné mal au ventre.
I regret eating that apple which made my stomach hurt.

A bit of explanation

There are several type of dependent/subordinate clauses in French. Here, both cases are relative (dependent/subordinate) clauses (proposition subordonnée relative) but with a nuance.

  • In case 1, the dependent clause does not have any antecedent. In this case, you would use qui for people (or maybe pets) and que for anything else. Just think of who (qui) vs. what(que).
  • In case 2, the dependent clause still does not have any antecedent, but the relative pronoun is now the subject of the relative clause. In this case, we use qui each time. You can notice the ce or celui. Ce is indefinite for objects, celui (or celle in feminine, or ceux/celles at plural) can be used for objects as a definite form but are definite and indefinite for people.
  • In case 3, the dependent clause begins with a pronoun which is not the subject of the clause. Here, we can see we use que for living and non-living subjects.
  • In case 4, the dependent clause begins with a pronoun which is the subject of the clause. This time, we use qui for living and non-living subjects.

I am always unsure about when to use who or whom, so please warn me/edit if I made a mistake.

  • Showing me the 3 different cases was very helpful. Case 2 and 3 are familiar to me. When I was learning about relative pronouns "qui" and "que", they used the terminology of antecedent and subordinate clause ( = dependant clause, I'm guessing), so I understand your explanation about case 2 and 3. Case 1 is unfamiliar to me, so it gives me a starting point for using Google to learn about dependant clauses that don't have an antecedent. One question: is "que" or "qui" in Case 1 still called a "relative pronoun", or is it called some other grammar word?
    – silph
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 7:52
  • 1
    Yes, I used dependent clause for subordinate clause since it was the translation I found and I was not sure. I will update since to use the most common terms. Yes, the pronoun is still a relative pronoun according to Wikipédia.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 8:05
  • I have been reading about relative pronouns where there is no expressed antecedent ("indefinite relative pronouns") here and here, and I am wondering about Vous invitez qui vous voulez.. Should that instead be Vous invitez ce qui vous voulez? Or can qui (not ce qui) actually be an indefinite relative pronoun, and if so, when is it used instead of ce qui?
    – silph
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 23:26
  • 1
    @silph I missed that case. My case 1 was correct, but when the pronoun is subject you need something more. Ce is indefinite for objects. For a definite version or for people, you will use celui/celle/ceux/celles. I added a case in my answer, I hope it remains clear.
    – Chop
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 6:30
  • your explanation is clear to me (other than my not knowing very precisely what the words "definite" and "indefinite" mean, but that's okay because i am sure i will learn about that when i read grammar sites more). Thanks you for adding in Case 2. it seems that i have not read the grammar sites as carefully as i should, because your explanation of case 1 vs case 2 does not sound familiar to me! your Case 1 and Case 2 elaboration definitely will help me research this grammar point further.
    – silph
    Commented Aug 29, 2015 at 8:05

Vous pouvez inviter qui vous voulez. You could have also used que in this case, but here, it is a person who has to be replaced by a PRONOM RELATIF SIMPLE. So, instead of que which is used in case of things, we use qui because there is a person.

For clarification, I would like you to refer to the following example. It might help you in better comprehension of PRONOM RELATIF SIMPLE:

La seule personne a qui je peux donner la confiance est mon frere cadet.

La seule chose qui me plait est une promenade au bord de la mer.

Here,in the first sentence, we use QUI because we are replacing a person by the pronoun. However, in the second sentence, we use QUE because a thing (a long walk by the seashore) is being replaced here.

  • Que and qui both can replace a person or a thing it all depends wether that thing they are replacing is the subject/direct object of the clause following them (dependent clause). See here's an example from my grammar book : L'homme que vous voyez au fond de l'atelier est un des meilleurs artisans du pays = The man you see in the back of the shop is one of the best craftsmen in the country.
    – Manar
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 18:26
  • However when qui replaces an indirect object (which has a preposition like: à for instance) qui can only refer to people Ex : C'est l'antiquaire à qui je pensais. He's the antiques dealer I was thinking about. Also it depends wether it's a definite or indefinite thing or object they are replacing and in such case we would use indéfinite relative pronouns.
    – Manar
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 18:27

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