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When the pronoun "dont" is used with a person, can we also use "de qui" instead? As in this example:

La personne dont il a parlé hier est morte ce matin.

La personne de qui il a parlé hier est morte ce matin.

What if we use a prepositional phrase ending with "de", such as "à côté de". Should this be followed by "qui" or "lequel"/"laquelle"/etc.?

La personne à côté de laquelle il était assis hier est morte ce matin.

La personne à côté de qui il était assis hier est morte ce matin.

  • 1
    Really good question. Tricky one, even for native speakers (a lot of people still make the mistake). Also, sorry if it has nothing to do with the question itself, but regarding your second example, it would be more appropriate (and, in fact, correct) to use était assis hier instead of est assis hier since you're referring to the past. – Ksyqo Oct 30 '16 at 22:48
  • @ValentinBerthelot Thanks. I've corrected the mistake. – user11550 Oct 31 '16 at 1:36
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+50

tl;dr

You should use "dont" even if it is correct to use "de qui".

As it explained below, duquel / de laquelle / desquels / desquelles are more precise than "de qui" or "dont" which aren't carrying gender/plural meaning.


Detailed explanation

In ling.arts, it is well explained :

Pour l'emploi du pronom suspensif dont,

  • il s'utilise dans des phrases relatives avec un antécédent animé ou inanimé;
  • il équivaut à de + complément et entre souvent en concurrence avec de qui et duquel d'après le type de référent;
  • il s'utilise obligatoirement si le référent est un pronom neutre (ce, cela, ceci, rien)

And

Le pronom suspensif de qui s'emploie dans les phrases relatives avec un antécédent animé. De qui entre dans cet emploi en concurrence avec duquel (qui est moins fréquent pour désigner des personnes). Si le référent est un animal, on utilisera de préférence de qui.

So, generally "dont" covers "de qui" usages and is more often used.

Le pronom suspensif duquel s'emploie dans des phrases relatives avec un antécédent inanimé, moins fréquemment avec un antécédent animé et jamais après un antécédent neutre.

To conclude, you can use "de qui" or "duquel" according to their usage, it will be correct, but more idiomatic to use "dont".


ngram

When it matches dont usages you should use it since it is more commonly used.


Duquel : More information than dont or de qui

First, de + lequel = duquel, so you will never find " blah à côté de lequel blah blah".

The usage of de qui is more important but sometimes you need to add more informations.

You can see here somewhere "duquel" (or "de laquelle"/"desquels" /"desquelles") is better :

Par contre en écrivant

Voilà la femme de mon frère, DUQUEL j’ai confisqué le passeport.

la personne qui lit cette phrase sait qu'on a confisqué le passeport du frère (antécédent masculin)

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If you have the meaning "the person he was talking about yesterday" in mind, then yes. You can use both "dont" and "de qui" (as well as "de laquelle"), even though "dont" is more common:

La personne {dont / de qui / de laquelle} il parlait hier est morte ce matin.

As to the second example, both "à côté de qui" and "à côté de laquelle" do work:

La personne {à côté de qui / à côté de laquelle} il était assis hier est morte ce matin.

Note: "de qui" and "à côté de qui" can only apply to living things.

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    I feel a real difference between the first and the second phrasing. "de qui" seems wrong in the first one, but right/natural in the second – Random Nov 3 '16 at 9:27
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Be careful that you don't try to speak English using French words. I think that à côté de qui fits into the idea that you're trying to speak French with an English word pattern. Larousse [1] explicitly says that "dont" is used for "de qui" (and a few others) as the relative pronoun. "De qui" cannot stand on its own in the dependent clause (it would need a verb or a noun and verb).

  • That's a good point, but as a French, I often use à côté de qui, simply because it's shorter. I know it's wrong, but I barely even use "duquel/de laquelle" orally. Too long, too formal. – Teleporting Goat Nov 2 '16 at 9:27
  • As @TeleportingGoat says, "à coté de qui" sounds very natural to me, but "la personne de qui" seems wrong... – Random Nov 3 '16 at 9:29
  • @Random I agree, I don't think I've ever heard that – Teleporting Goat Nov 3 '16 at 9:42

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