Grammar Lequel (Which)

A Difficult French Pronoun

France produce stand
"Je veux la pomme là-bas. > Laquelle ?" (I want the apple over there. > Which one?). Bo Zaunders / Getty Images

Lequel, which usually means which, is arguably the most difficult French pronoun.

Lequel has four basic forms, because it has to agree in gender and number with the noun it replaces. In addition, lequel has several contracted forms - like the definite articles le and les, lequel contracts with the prepositions à and de. You can see all of these forms in the table below.

Lequel is usually either an interrogative pronoun or a relative pronoun.

For more information, click the links to visit the detailed lessons on these types of pronouns.

1) Interrogative pronoun: Lequel replaces quel + noun.

   Quel livre veux-tu ? > Lequel veux-tu ?
   Which book do you want? > Which one do you want?

   Je veux la pomme là-bas. > Laquelle ?
   I want the apple over there. > Which one?

   Je pense à mon frère. > Auquel penses-tu ? [À quel frère...]
   I'm thinking about my brother. > Which one are you thinking about?


2) Relative pronoun: Lequel replaces an inanimate object of a preposition. (If the object of the preposition is a person, use qui.)

   Le livre dans lequel j'ai écrit...
   The book in which I wrote...

   La ville à laquelle je songe...
   The town about which I'm dreaming...

   Le cinéma près duquel j'ai mangé...
   The theater near which I ate... / The theater I ate near...

Less commonly, in very formal French, lequel can also be a relative adjective.


 

 SingularPlural
 Masculine  FeminineMasculine  Feminine
Formslequellaquellelesquelslesquelles
à + lequelauquelà laquelleauxquelsauxquelles
de + lequel  duquelde laquelle  desquelsdesquelles
Lequel is usually a pronoun, but it can also be a relative adjective. Relative adjectives are placed in front of nouns to indicate a link between that noun and an antecedent (the same noun previously stated or implied). In both English and French, relative adjectives are used mainly in legal, administrative, or other highly-formal language.
The basic French relative adjective, lequel, has to agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies. In addition, it contracts with the prepositions à and de. You can see all of these forms in the table on page 1.
    Il y a cinq témoins, lesquels témoins vont arriver demain.
   There are five witnesses, which witnesses will arrive tomorrow.    Vous payerez 500 $, laquelle somme sera...
   You will pay $500, which sum will be...    Il est possible que le défendeur tue encore, auquel cas...
   It's possible that the defendent will kill again, in which case...Clarification:
Q. What's the difference between lequel as a relative adjective and lequel as a relative pronoun?
A. The same as the difference between any adjective and pronoun:
   The relative adjective precedes a noun: laquelle somme sera...
   The relative pronoun replaces a noun: - Avez-vous la clé ? - Laquelle ?
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Lawless, Laura K. "Grammar Lequel (Which)." ThoughtCo, Jun. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/french-pronoun-lequel-1368874. Lawless, Laura K. (2017, June 30). Grammar Lequel (Which). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-pronoun-lequel-1368874 Lawless, Laura K. "Grammar Lequel (Which)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-pronoun-lequel-1368874 (accessed November 23, 2017).