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 tends to be easier for French students, since it’s the same as when is an interrogative adverb.

Par exemple…

Il range ses jouets. Voici la caisse.
 > Voici la caisse où il range ses jouets.
  He puts away his toys. Here’s the box.
 > Here’s the box where he puts away his toys.
J’ai vu un ours au parc. Le parc est tout près.
 > Le parc où j’ai vu un ours est tout près.
  I saw a bear in the park. The park is nearby.
 > The park where I saw a bear 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.
 > La région d’où vient ce fromage est rocheuse.
  This cheese comes from a rocky region.
 > The region this cheese is from is rocky.
Nous sommes passés par de belles villes.
 > Les villes par où nous sommes passés sont belles.
  We passed by some beautiful towns.
 > The towns we passed are beautiful.

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

 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.

 Related lessons

Learn Spanish En español

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French interrogative adverbs
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