Using "Qui" as an Indefinite Relative Pronoun
Hello, Duo! I was recently reading over the lyrics for Papaoutai, and I have a question about the grammar in a sentence of the song.
"Dites-nous qui donne naissance aux irresponsables ?"
Here, "qui" seems to act as an indefinite relative pronoun, or maybe, the start of a new and entirely separate clause to serve as more of a complement to the verb. Therefore, my question comes in two parts:
Since the standard indefinite relative pronouns "ce que" and "ce qui" can refer only to objects, is there a way to refer to a person with an indefinite relative pronoun, such as in the English example "Bring who you want?"
Is this a set way to ask a question indirectly? For example, if it were an object, would I say "Dis-moi que tu fais," "Dis-moi que fais-tu," or "Dis-moi ce que tu fais" (with the indefinite relative pronoun).
Thanks to everyone in advance! Hoping some natives can enlighten me.
The "qui" in the lyric is simply a pronoun, not a relative one. It's interrogative in function. It would be the same construction as in "Dites-nous pourquoi tu as raison." You can consider "pourquoi tu as raison" as the direct object of "dites" just like "qui donne..." is the object of "dites" in the lyric above. This grammar point is called "l'interrogation indirecte" or even "le discours indirect." (The latter term is more involved.) Other examples:
- Quand as-tu du temps ? → Je ne sais pas quand tu as du temps.
- Où est la gare ? → Il me demande où est la gare.
In the two examples above, the "direct interrogation" is turned into an "indirect interrogation".
To answer your other questions:
Bring who you want = Amenez qui vous voulez. The "qui..." part of the sentence is the object of "amenez." It's not a separate clause. Also, as you found out, "quiconque" exists. Not as common in speech, but valid nonetheless. I would personally very rarely use it.
It's not a set way, as the rule is slightly different with "que", partly because "que" can be confused as a relative pronoun. We say "Dis-moi ce que tu fais."
In "Dis-moi que tu fais", "que" acts as a relative pronoun. You will notice that the sentence is incomplete as it's translated as "Tell me that you are doing." You're not mentioning what "you" are doing. Also, I don't believe your second proposition is grammatically correct. (It's not how "le discours indirecte" is treated in French.)
Thank you so much for your response, but I have some problems with your answers.
If "qui" weren't a separate clause, then "vous voulez" would not be conjugated as such. You are correct in saying that "qui" is the object of "amenez" but it is also the object of the second implied infinitive "amener" that would come after "voulez," such as in "Bring who you want (to bring)," which leads me to believe that it is indeed an indefinite relative pronoun.
This would also hammer home my point that "qui" would act as an indefinite relative pronoun, for "ce que" is one as well. I know that indirect speech exists, but the point of indirect speech is still to link two ideas. Even in the two examples you gave, "quand" and "où" can act as relative adverbs, not strictly interrogative ones.
Therefore, I propose another question: Has "qui" replaced "quiconque" in informal speech?
Thank you again so much for your time. Have a few lingots for putting up with me.
This article may help you. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-indefinite-relative-pronouns-1368864
Comme George a dit, dans la phrase que tu donnes en exemple "qui" est un pronom interrogatif.