When I read this sentence:

"Pourquoi admirez-vous tant ce désastre écologique qu’est le Grand Canyon ? "

How would one translate this "que" ?
Can it have the meaning of "like the Grand Canyon" ?
Or, how would the Grand Canon be an ecological disaster?

(More background is found in Grammaire Descriptive du Français, p. 105. )

  • 2
    It's not a comparison and I'm not sure we can translate it in English word for word, but if so it would be something like: "Why do you admire that much this ecological disaster that the Grand Canyon is?".
    – Destal
    Nov 18, 2019 at 21:38
  • When you want to start a new line just type two spaces and then hit the enter key.
    – LPH
    Nov 18, 2019 at 23:25

1 Answer 1


"Que" is a relative pronoun here. It has for grammatical function that of "attribut du sujet", the subject being "le Grand Canyon" (Le Grand Canyon est "qu'" ("désastre écologique" is the antecedent)); there is a subject/verb inversion in the clause and as well an unusual place for the "attribut". You'll find this at the TLFi's entry « que », (II.B.2.a).

  1. [Que a pour fonction] a) [attribut] L'homme qu'il est. Le vieillard que je suis devenu a peine à se représenter le furieux malade que j'étais naguère (MAURIAC, Nœud vip., 1932, p. 14).

The literal translation of this turn seems to be rare in modern English or to not exist; I do not remember it. The comment by user Destal as to the incertitude of finding this form in modern English shows that it could be rare or obsolete or never have been part of the language. The following syntax is equivalent though.

  • Why do you admire so much such an ecological disaster as The Grand Canyon?
  • The literal translation of this into English often works. While the man he is doesn't sound idiomatic to me, the old man that I have become sounds perfectly fine. Nov 20, 2019 at 13:18

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