I am LOVING our lessons on relative pronouns. I learned how to use que & qui in French 1, probably, but I always just assumed that they were the English equivalent of "that". One of the great things about being in a slightly more advanced class now is that we actually spend time learning the technical aspects of grammar instead of simply that que comes before a noun and that qui comes before a verb.
It's true that in many cases, que & qui actually do work as that or who in English. But the techincal reasons behind them are that, in combining two sentences, que replaces the indirect object, and qui replaces the subject.
For example: I know a city. Tourists adore this city.
(Je connais une ville. Les touristes adorent cette ville becomes Je connais une ville QUE les touristes adorent).
Or: I know a city. This city is on the river.
(Je connais une ville. Cette ville est au bord de la rivière becomes Je connais une ville QUI est au bord d'une rivière).
See? In the first example, cette ville is the indirect object of the second sentence, and in the second example, cette ville in the subject of the second sentence. I love finally knowing why.
But, of course, French is never that easy. You have to keep an eye out sentences involving the word dans (in, in English), because in these cases, you're supposed to use où
instead. It works the same way, except that it replaces a place.
Je connais une ville. Il y a une belle église dans cette ville can become Je connais une ville où il y a une belle église.
(Où can also be used to replace things relating to time in the exact same way).
The most handy, however, is dont, which we learned the fine points of yesterday, and which I'm really excited to be able to use correctly from now on.
It works the same way as que, qui and ou, except in different situations. The first is that replaces an indirect object who's verb is a verb constructed with the word "de" (don't ask, that's a story for another time).
The neighbors have a big dog. I'm scared of this big dog.
Les voisins ont un gros chien. J'ai tres peur de ce gros chien = Les voisins ont un gros chien dont j'ai peur. (dont replaces the "un gros chien" in the second sentence, because it's being introduced with "avoir peur de" -- some verbs in French are always constructed with "de").
OR, dont can handily be used anytime you are talking about something posessive, such as my brother, or his aunt, or its beauty for example.
He wants to go to this university. The reputation of this university is excellent.
Il veut aller dans cette université dont la réputation est excellent.
And, lastly, with no relation to the previous two uses at all, dont can also be used in the "including" or "for example" sense:
I've visited many European countries. I've visited Italy and Spain turns into (pretend this is all in French, I'm too lazy to actually type out the real example):
I've visited many European countries dont Italy and Spain.
SO YAY. This is the definitely the most effective French class ever.