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Often having trouble distinguishing between “quel” and “ce que” in the discours indirect.

Hello there. Sometimes in French, I get confused about whether to use "quel" (and all of its forms) or "ce que" when it comes to saying “what" (the relative pronoun) in the discours indirect, and I was wondering if I could have a little bit of help with this. So, my sentence is "I have already thought about what the majority of my plans for next year will be", but I don't know if I should use "quel" or "ce que", like I said. I would think it would be “J'ai déjà pensé ce que seront la plupart de mes projets l’année prochaine", but using “quel” instead of “ce que”, I believe the sentence would be: “J’ai déjà pensé à quels seront mes projets l’année prochaine.” For some reason, distinguishing between "ce que" and "quel" is always such an issue for me while working in the discours indirect. So, if anyone can give me some rules or things to think about in terms of the use of “quel” and “ce que” in the discours indirect, it would be much appreciated. Thank you and have a nice day.

November 27, 2017



J'ai déjà pensé à ce que la plupart de mes projets seront pour l'année prochaine.

You can take "ce que" as "the fact that", so you are thinking about a fact, what fact? The fact that you know what your plans will be. You can also think of "ce que" as simply "about" if it's easier, so if it makes sense to have an "about" in a sentence, then it will most likely be a "ce que" there.

quel and its other forms are used for questions or exclamations, you can take it as either "what is...?" or "what a...!", so it's simple: you never use it in other contexts.


As ruferales has already stated, quel and all of its various forms are used only when referring to questions or exclamations. Ce que is used in every other case, therefore, "Je sais déjà quelle (ce qui) sera la plupart de mes projets l'année prochaine" is not grammatically correct. Replacing "quelle" with "ce qui" in this case is technically grammatically correct, but very awkward and unnatural in my opinion. Ruferales has already given the best possible translation.

Quel when used as an exclamation is the equivalent of saying "what a..." in English.

Quelle belle maison ! = What a beautiful house!

As a general rule, you can almost always replace "quel" with "qu'est-ce qui" when used as an interrogative noun, but these cannot replace "ce que."

Qu'est-ce qui est sur la porte ? = Quel est sur la porte ?

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