Où – Relative Pronoun

Où - French relative pronoun
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Pronom relatif

As a relative pronoun, means both "where" and "when": it combines two clauses that are related in space or time.

1) = where

The first meaning of is easy. If you’ve studied interrogative adverbs, or even just learned to ask for directions, you know already know that means "where." It often means the same thing when used as a relative pronoun.

Par exemple…

Nous mangeons à table. Voici la table.   We eat at a table. Here’s the table.
Voici la table où nous mangeons.   Here’s the table where we eat
Here’s the table we eat at.
J’ai vu un ours au parc. Le parc est tout près.   I saw a bear in the park. The park is nearby.
Le parc où j’ai vu un ours est tout près.   The park where I saw a bear is nearby.
The park I saw a bear in is nearby.

 Though the relative pronoun is required in French, it’s often optional in English and may be left out of the translation entirely.

 The prepositions de, jusque, and par may precede .*

Par exemple…

Ce fromage vient d’une région rocheuse.   This cheese comes from a rocky region.
La région d’où vient ce fromage est rocheuse.   The region this cheese is from is rocky.
Nous sommes passés par de belles villes.   We passed by some beautiful towns.
Les villes par où nous sommes passés sont belles.   The towns we passed are beautiful.

 However, if the sentence includes an adverb of place, the relative pronoun is not , which would be redundant, but rather que:

Par exemple…

C’est là que je vais.   That’s where I’m going.
C’est là où je vais.   It’s there where I’m going.
C’est ici que nous habitons.   This is where we live.
C’est ici où nous habitons.   It’s here where we live.

 2) = when

I know what you’re thinking, "But quand means ‘when’!" You’re right, it does, but not as a relative pronoun: quand is either an interrogative adverb or a subordinating conjunction. When you need a relative pronoun that means "when," you need .

Par exemple…

Samedi, c’est le jour où je rends visite à mes parents.   Saturday is the day I visit my parents.
Tout allait bien jusqu’au moment où j’ai vu le panneau.   Everything was going well until the moment I saw the sign.
On se baigne beaucoup pendant les mois où il fait chaud.   We swim a lot during the months when it’s hot.

 * can only be used when referring to a time or place, and only with the prepositions listed above. Otherwise …

  • If the preposition is de plus a person or thing, the relative pronoun has to be dont.
  • If any preposition other than de, jusque, or par is required, the relative pronoun is lequel.

 Related lessons

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Où - relative pronoun

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