The relative pronouns che, cui and quale

The relative pronouns che, cui and quale are used in place of names of people, animals or things. We use them to join two phrases that have something in common, to avoid repetition.

Conosco una ragazza. La ragazza si chiama Anna Conosco una ragazza che si chiama Anna.

I know a girl. The girl is called Anna → I know a girl who is called Anna.

Ti parlo di un problema. Il problema è serio → Il problema di cui ti parlo è serio.

I'm talking to you about a problem. The problem is serious → The problem about which I'm talking to you is serious.

Ti telefona Mario. Mario è il direttore → Ti telefona Mario il quale è il direttore.

Mario is calling you. Mario is the managerMario, who is the manager, is calling you.

  • Che doesn't vary with gender or number. It always follows the noun to which it refers and is the most widely used pronoun.

Il tavolo che ho comprato è di legno.

The table that I bought is made of wood.

Il cameriere che mi porta la birra è Ciro.

The server that brings me the beer is Ciro.

  • Cui doesn't vary with gender or number and is often preceded by a preposition like a (to), per (for), di (of), etc.

Il medico di cui ti parlavo è il dott. Mancini.

The doctor about whom I was telling you is Dr. Mancini.

Questo è il motivo per cui lascio la città.

This is the reason for which I'm leaving the city.

  • Quale/i agrees in both gender and number with the noun to which it refers. It is also preceded by an article Articoli determinativi or an article + preposition combination like del, al, nei, etc.

La signora la quale lavora alla reception si chiama Magda.

The woman who works at the front desk is called Magda.

I colleghi dei quali ti parlavo sono usciti.

The colleagues about whom I was telling you have left.

Note: quale/i can be used instead of che or cui, especially to make a sentence sound more formal.

La donna che/la quale si avvicina è mia madre.

The woman who is approaching us is my mother.

L’amico con cui/con il quale sono uscito è Toni.

The friend with whom I went out was Toni.

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