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The French subtitles in this video are as follows:

Et puis, ce que font aussi beaucoup de parents quand ils le peuvent, c'est ouvrir un livret pour mettre de côté un peu d'argent.

I have always only seen "ce que" followed by a subject and verb (altogether acting like some kind of object), and I have always only seen it be after a subject and verb. For example, "[Tu aime] [ce que j'ai]" -- [subject verb] [ce que subject verb ].

I was expecting "ce qui" instead of "ce que" in the above quotation. What is going on here?

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I think the other answers are good. However, if I may hazard a third stab at it that capitalizes on your existing knowledge...

You say you already know that ce que can be followed by subject+verb, and when that's the case, it represents the object.

Well, the latter two elements of this structure often trade places.* So all you need to do is modify your rule slightly: ce que can also be followed by verb+subject, with the exact same meaning.

Hence, here it's ce que + font (verb) + beaucoup de parents (subject).

You might ask: Then how do I know that ce que represents the object, considering that ce qui is typically followed by verb+object in that order?

Answer: Because it's ce que, not ce qui, which safeguards it against this problem. :)


*For stylistic/euphonic reasons; compare with this answer.

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The main clause in this sentence is "ouvrir un livret pour mettre de côté un peu d'argent" and the relative subordinate clause is "ce que font aussi beaucoup de parents (quand ils le peuvent)".

Emphasis is put on the subordinate clause by having it preceding the main clause. The use of "c' " is even more emphatic. This is quite a common construction.
Ce que and ce qui are used to refer to an idea instead of a specific noun (in which case qui and que would be used). If the idea ce que is referring to was expressed just before the relative pronoun the sentence would be :

Et puis, ouvrir un livret pour mettre de côté un peu d'argent (c') est ce que font beaucoup de parents quand ils le peuvent.

The question on when to use ce qui and ce que has already been asked on French Language : When to use "ce qui" and "ce que" instead of "qui". Ce que is used here because the relative pronoun acts as object in the subordinate clause (the subject is beaucoup de parents).

  • Any reason for the downvote? – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Jul 26 '17 at 5:46
  • It sounds like the sentence should switch "font" and "beaucoup de parents" to me, though: "Ouvrir un livret [...] est ce que beaucoup de parents font [...]". We say "My parents made cookies" ("Mes parents font des biscuits"), not "Made my parents cookies" ("Font mes parents des biscuits"). a) Am I right that "font" and "beaucoup de parents" are out of order? and b) If I'm right, why are they switched to be out of order like this? – silph Oct 11 '17 at 21:02
  • (can't edit my previous comment, so here is new one). Luke's answer below answered my question I just asked, but your answer gave me my first step of understanding that I had needed, so thanks for that! – silph Oct 11 '17 at 21:10
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Ce que and not ce qui is correct here. You have to remember that que is used when the relative is the object of a verb, and qui when it is the subject. It is true that sentence starting with Ce qu- is more likely to use ce qui, but here the "unwound" sentence is:

Ouvrir un livret pour mettre de côté un peu d'argent est ce que font aussi beaucoup de parents quand ils le peuvent.

Here the relative starting ce qu- is the object (well, technically the predicative expression in this case, but the syntactic effect is the same), thus que as the relative pronoun.

  • (i still have to dedicate time to carefully read these replies). but i'm wondering if my poor understanding with the grammar concept of "causative faire" is part of what is giving me trouble here. (i'm only realising this now, from reading your "unwound" sentence) – silph Jul 26 '17 at 3:07
  • @silph Yes, since you knew when to use ce qui and *ce que it was obvious you did not understand the sentence because of the way it was built, that's why I expanded on it that in my answer. – Laure SO - Écoute-nous Jul 26 '17 at 5:50
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    @silph If you though there was a causative here (there is not), then yeah, I can see how that would screw up with your attempts to understand the syntax.it's really just topicalization to move the element you want to focus on first in the sentence (i.e. clefting ) – Circeus Jul 26 '17 at 13:52

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