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15 French expressions with “que” you need to know

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Have you spent at least a couple of hours studying French in your life? If the answer is yes, you’ll know how important que is, even if it’s a humble three-letter word (a wordlet, we could say). If it stands alone, you will translate it as “that” or “than” in most contexts.

However, it would be fair to say that que doesn’t quite like being alone. There are plenty of expressions out there that have que in them: alors que, peut-être que, à tel point que, de sorte que, bien que, à moins quethe list goes on.

Que is often part of an expression (very often a conjunction), and if it is, chances are you’ll not translate it as “that”. In many cases, we have separate words for these expressions in English.

These are used all the time in French, and you’ll certainly run into at least a handful of these within 5 minutes of picking up a French book or newspaper.

So let’s see the most important and most useful que phrases in French. We’ve provided a good number of examples for each expression so you won’t be in the dark about how to use them in a sentence. Enjoy!

1. il faut que + subjonctif

have to, need to

Il faut que je voie ta maman. = I have to see your mom.

Il faut que j’aille au bureau. = I have to go to the office.

Il faut que vous sachiez. = You need to know.

Il faut qu‘il y ait un changement. = There needs to be a change.

Il faut qu‘on parle. = We need to talk.

Il faut qu‘elles soient là. = They will have to be there. (elles – refers to women/girls or feminine nouns)

2. parce que


Je l’ai fait parce que j’y étais obligé. = I did it because I was obliged to do it.

3. alors que/ tandis que

while, whereas

Certaines personnes aiment faire du jogging, alors que d’autres préfèrent la marche rapide. = Some people like running, while others prefer speed walking.

Certains sont gratuits, alors que d’autres sont payants. = Some are free, while others have a cost.

Attention: the words alors (= then) and que (= that) can get next to each other by accident, too – they do not necessarily combine to form the expression “whereas”. Alors + que can simply stand for “it was then that”. You’ll have to carefully translate the sentence to see if it’s there to mean “it was then that” or “whereas”:

C’est alors + que commença sa véritable carrière. = It was then + that his/her true career started.

It’s useful to break down the first part of the sentence into C’est alors (“It’s then”) + que (“that”).

Think of this as something like peut and être in peut être (emphasis on the space!) meaning “may be”, “might be”, as opposed to peut-être, meaning “perhaps”, “maybe”.

4. bien que + subjonctif

even though, although

When used as a conjunction, or a linking expression, bien que means “even though”, and it’s always followed by the subjonctif.

  • Il se cachait le visage, bien que la pièce ne fût pas brillamment éclairée. = He was hiding his face, even though the room wasn’t brightly lit.
  • Bien que la fenêtre fût ouverte, il continuait de faire chaud. = Even though the window was open, it stayed hot [in the room].
  • Bien que le climat et le temps soient étroitement liés, ces deux choses sont très différentes. = Even though the climate and the weather are closely related, these are two very different things.
  • […] Bien que je sois très déçu par mon père et ma mère. = Although I’m very disappointed in my father and mother.

Attention – not to confuse with bien + que getting accidentally next to each other, which happens quite frequently:

  • Elle sait très bien + que tout le monde est au courant. = She’s very well aware + that everyone knows about it.
  • Tu sais bien + que c’est impossible. = You know (very) well + that it’s impossible.
  • Tu vois bien + qu’ils sont en parfaite santé. = You can very well see they’re in perfect health.
  • Il faut + bien + que je le confesse. = I (very well) have to confess it. / I must confess it. (il faut que + bien = il faut bien que je…)

5. avant que + subjonctif


Il faut désinfecter sa blessure avant que je la soigne. = His/her wound needs to be disinfected before I treat it.

Plusieurs minutes s’écoulèrent avant que Benjamin reprenne la parole. = Several minutes had passed before Benjamin spoke again.

6. jusqu’à ce que + subjonctif


Laisser prendre jusqu’à ce que le glaçage soit plus ou moins sec au toucher. = Allow to harden until the icing feels more or less dry to the touch.

7. peut-être que

maybe, perhaps

Peut-être que cette mission a fini par vous lasser ? = Perhaps this task ended up wearing you out?

Peut-être que personne ne dira rien. = Perhaps no one will say anything.

Peut-être que l’argent appartient à lui. = Maybe the money belongs to him/her.

« Peut-être que je suis en train de suivre les pas de Mitterrand, qui voulait vraiment façonner l’Europe. » (Emmanuel Macron) = “Maybe I’m following in the footsteps of Mitterrand, who truly wanted to shape Europe.”

Note 1: Not to be confused with peut être que (without a hyphen), as in

Brexit : « Un second référendum ne peut être que la dernière des options ». = Brexit: “A second referendum cannot be but the last resort”. (Title of a Le Monde article.)

Note 2: Even though peut-être que seems like an expression that would call for the subjonctif, it isn’t – the indicatif wins here.

Il se peut que, however, an expression that has the same meaning, does require the subjonctif.

8. être sûr(e) que

to be sure that…

Je suis sûr que je peux compter sur toi. = I’m sure I can count on you.

Je suis sûre que c’est la solution. = I’m sure that this is the solution. (The adjective sûre tells you that the speaker’s female.)

9. à tel point que

to the point where/ so much so that…

Je suis toujours très occupée, à tel point que je n’ai plus une minute à moi. = I’m always very busy, so much so that I don’t even have a minute for myself anymore.

(Note the adjective occupée: the extra “e” at the end gives you the hint that the speaker is female. Need some extra info on agreement? You’re in luck.)

[…] À tel point que je ne m’étais pas rendu compte de mes progrès. = […] So much so that I had not even realized the progress I’d made.

10. avoir l’impression que

to have the impression that…/ it feels like..

C’est bizarre… j’ai l’impression que je devrais me souvenir de quelque chose. = This is weird… I feel like I should remember something. (literally: “I have the impression that…”)

Parfois, j’ai l’impression que les professeurs le font exprès. = Sometimes I have the impression that the teachers do it on purpose.

11. à moins que + subjonctif


A moins que je ne me trompe, c’est de la poudre de cacao. = If I’m not mistaken, this is cocoa powder.

12. d’après ce que…

based on what, from what…

D’après ce que je peux voir, oui. = From what I can see, yes.

D’après ce que mon père m’a dit, non. = Based on what my father told me, no.

D’après ce que je sais, sa sœur n’était même pas invitée. = Based on what I know, her sister wasn’t even invited.

13. quoi que ce soit

anything, anything at all

Elles ne semblent pas avoir quoi que ce soit en commun. = They don’t seem to have anything in common.

… de peur que ses parents remarquent quoi que ce soit. = … for fear that his/her parents notice anything.

14. chaque fois que…

whenever/ each time that…

J’y retourne chaque fois que je peux. = I go back there whenever I can.

Je souris chaque fois que je la regarde. = I smile each time I look at her/ it (female noun).

Je suis impressionnée par ce logiciel chaque fois que je l’utilise. = I am impressed with this software each time I use it. (female speaker)

15. être convaincu(e) que

to be convinced that…

Elle est convaincue qu‘elle fait le plus intéressant métier du monde. = She’s convinced she has the world’s most interesting profession. – literally: She’s convinced she’s doing the world’s most interesting profession.

While the translation calls for the word “doing”, remember that the present continuous (verb + ing) doesn’t exist in French. One less thing to worry about!

That’s it. I promise you this list will come in super handy, so I invite you to bookmark it for future reference.

If you’re interested in how the French word que can function as a pronoun, take a peek here. French learners often mix it up with qui, so it’s a great idea to check out the difference between the two!

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