Je suis originaire de Marseille. C'est là que j'ai commencé à travailler.

I know 'que' and 'où' are relative pronouns that stand in for the object of the clause which comes after them. But 'que' here stands for Marseille which is a place, so, shouldn't 'où' be used instead?

  • It's there that I began to work. versus It's there where I began to work.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 23, 2021 at 23:06
  • The thing is English isn't my first language. They both sound right to me but according to the grammar rules I studied at school the first sentence should be wrong.
    – Manar
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 2:24
  • I just gave you translations into English where you can clearly see the difference in meaning.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 13:43
  • What's the difference in meaning? I don't think I can see it.
    – Manar
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 23:58
  • That versus where.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 27, 2021 at 0:03

1 Answer 1


Both are used but c'estque is more common and often preferred by grammarians.


On observe que lorsque a un sens spatial, c’est là est parfois utilisé à la place de c’est là que. Cet emploi est condamné par plusieurs grammairiens qui le qualifient de familier, voire de pléonastique, alors que d’autres l’analysent comme un archaïsme. C’est pourquoi on préférera l’emploi de c’est là que.

C'est ... que is a way to emphasize a sentence. For example:

J'ai commencé à travailler à Marseille.

can be emphasized this way:

C'est à Marseille que j'ai commencé à travailler.

When the emphasized part is the subject, qui is used instead of que.

La Terre tourne autour du Soleil.

C'est la Terre qui tourne autour du Soleil.

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