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A relative pronoun game

Qui and que cause a lot of problems for English-speaking learners of French because of interference problems from English. English uses the relative pronoun which or that (or nothing at all), irrespective of whether the pronoun is the subject or object. In English we have the added complication that who is used as a relative pronoun when the pronoun refers to a person. French uses qui when the referent is the subject of the verb in its clause and que when it's the object. You can explain all this and give examples. You can also say that in most cases qui is followed directly by a verb (intervening object pronouns are the main exception).

My guess is that, in the long run, students get competent with these by practice and having a good feel for them. In other words, by hearing, reading and using them a lot, they will pick them up naturally. Some students will also find the grammatical explanation hard to understand.

Here is a useful game, or "game-like activity" which makes it more fun to practise relative pronouns and relative clauses. EFL writer Penny Ur describes this type of activity as a twist on a boring, less meaningful task to make it more stimulating. This would work with good intermediate students, but can easily be adapted to make the game easier or harder. It is based on a game I saw on http://www.tesolzone.com/.

So for French it practises qui and que, but you could make it harder by including dont. Display or handout sets of three definitions, the answers to which all begin with the same letter. Make sure you include qui or que in each definition. Keep the vocabulary relatively simple or only introduce new words where the context makes their meaning clear.

On their own or in pairs the students have to solve the definitions and find the common letters to a time limit. You could show each set of three on a PowerPoint slide for a minute before moving on. Points could be given for correct answers. You could design your definitions so that the letters can be combined to form another word.

Examples

  • C'est un grand animal dangereux qu'on trouve en Inde. (tigre)
  • C'est un objet qui se trouve souvent sur votre table en cours. (trousse)
  • C'est le sport qu'on joue à Roland Garros ou Wimbledon. (tennis)


  • C'est une habitation qui a des portes et des fenêtres. (maison)
  • C'est un fruit qui ressemble à une petite orange. (mandarine)
  • C'est un vêtement que je porte quand il fait froid. (manteau)


  • C'est un objet qui est utile quand il pleut. (parapluie)
  • C'est un grand ours noir et blanc qui habite en Chine. (panda)
  • C'est quelque chose qu'on mange souvent le matin. (pain)


  • C'est l'objet que le prof utilise pour écrire au tableau. (stylo)
  • C'est un légume vert qu'on mange avec de la vinaigrette. (salade)
  • C'est du boeuf qu'on mange avec des frites. (steak)


After playing for about 10 minutes, students can then make up their own examples with the aid of a dictionary. Alternatively you can give them words to define in class or for homework. Perhaps it would be a good idea to see, after the activity, if students can work out the rule for themselves.

As a more technical follow-up tasks you could give partial definitions with the relative pronouns missing as a cloze exercise. Students would also have to figure out the answer to make sure there is a decent focus on meaning.

By the way, giving definitions such as these as a starter or plenary activity is a really good way to recycle language and provide useful listening input. You can make them up on the spot.




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