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I understand that "ce" is an adjective and "celui" is a pronoun, but I still don't understand when to use which one, especially if it is followed by "que" or "qui".

I will give some fill in the blank examples of where I am confused:

  1. ___ que je déteste, c’est de travailler avec des gens qui ne sont pas passionnés. Why is it "ce" and not "celui"?
  2. Ce peintre a produit cette peinture en vingt minutes, ___ qui est très impressionnant. Again, why is it "ce" and not "celui"?
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In this sentence "ce" is not an adjective but a pronoun; just as "celui" it is a demonstrative pronoun; more precisely it is a neuter demonstrative pronoun (TLFi¹). However, in the grammatical context of your sentence it is analysed by some grammarians as part of "ce que", which as a whole is reckoned with as a relative pronoun. English speaking students relate to this analysis better as "ce que" corresponds to "what" or "which". However, we do find this "decomposition" in English as well, but in the formal language.

(CoGEL, Quirk et al)

  • I eat what I like.
  • I eat that which I like. (formal)

Nevertheless, main stream French grammar does not recognize a relative pronoun in this combination. (Wikipédia)

Les pronoms relatifs Ce qui, Ce que, Ce dont, etc

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  1. Ce que je déteste, c’est de travailler avec des gens qui ne sont pas passionnés.

The antecedent is "travailler avec des gens qui ne sont pas passionnés". It is a clause, something considered as neuter in gender (neutre); therefore you use "ce".

  • What I detest is working with people whose heart is not in what they do. (In English you use "what" as the clause is not a simple relative clause but a nominal relative clause, "what" being a so called fused relative pronoun.)
  1. Ce peintre a produit cette peinture en vingt minutes, ce qui est très impressionnant.

The antecedent is "a produit cette peinture en vingt minutes". It is an idea, something considered as neuter in gender (neutre); therefore, again, you use "ce".

  • This painter has made this painting in twenty minutes, which is impressive. (Here the clause is a plain relative clause, and the antecedent is not a person, so you use the relative pronoun for nonpersonal entities.)

Examples with "celui" and "celle"; examples with "ceux" and "celles" left to the reader

  • Celui que je déteste, c'est le travailleur à la machine à emboutir; il est très malpoli.
  • Celle qui a réussi est partie à l'étranger.
  • Ce peintre m'a recommandé un livre, celui que beaucoup d'étudiants utilisent. (antecedent: "livre")
  • Ce peintre m'a recommandé un tuteur, celui qui s'occupe de son fils. (antecedent: "tuteur")

FrançaisFacile — Pronoms démonstratifs

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