As children, many of united state remember finding out the 5 Ws—who, what, when, where and why.

You are watching: What is what in french

Easy, right?

Well, easy is debatable, especially when it concerns “what” in French.

Despite the truth that it’s one of the very first things we discover as language learners, most of us are unaware the the root of mastering “what” go a many deeper into intermediate and advanced soil.

But we don’t need to bury ourselves lively in heavy grammar.

Let’s simplify and also take a quick look at the various ways that “what” is expressed in French.

If you make it all the method to the end, you gambling I’ll send you a virtual cookie!

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A couple of Things to Consider very first About “What” in French

It’s necessary to keep in mind there’s no exact translation that the English “what” come the French “what.”

“What” is a grammar multitasker. It can interrogate like a negative cop, define like a storyteller and even move easily within a sentence prefer the queen in chess. Together French learners, when we recognize that, everything changes.

In English, we obtain pretty offered to using the word “what” every willy nilly and because that this, we think “what” is simply one thing.

Well, I hate to break it come you, however it’s not.

From this point on, both in this article and also out in the real civilization of language learning, let go of her inhibitions and leave her anglophone “what” in ~ the door.

Doing this will enable your brain to be much more accepting the other linguistic possibilities. You’ll also be less tempted to translate, which as we’ll see, hardly ever works out.

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If you desire to hear aboriginal French speakers use “what” in French in its many different constructs, urbanbreathnyc.com has plenty of real-world content.


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You’ll likewise find vocabulary lists and also short quizzes that’ll administer you with the next ideal things come in-person language immersion.

But prior to you deserve to start practicing, you very first need to learn the basics that the French “what.”

So, here we go!

How come Say “What” in French

How to usage the French “Which” as the English “What”

Have friend ever found yourself on the verge of a mini-breakdown as soon as the concern you desire to asking or the sentence you desire to to speak in French has “what?”

You walk in thinking you understand the word because that “what” yet then it doesn’t sound rather right in her head.

And then you continue to either not say noþeles at every (and go wallow in ice cream) or think: “I can get approximately this,” and also do part weird etymological detour that incites a compelled smile native the human you’re talk to.

Well, you’re not alone my friend!

In English, it’s usual to usage “what” prior to a noun, as in, “What is her favorite film?”

But in French, you have to think “which” as in, “Which is her favorite film?”

The French Word because that “Which”

The French word because that “which” is quel, and that changes type depending on even if it is the noun that complies with is masculine, feminine, singular or plural.

Masculine: QuelQuel est kid nom? (What’s his name?)Feminine: QuelleQuelle est la day d’aujourd’hui? (What’s the date today?)Masculine plural: QuelsQuels sont les avantages d’habiter en ville? (What are the benefits of living in town?)Feminine plural: QuellesQuelles sont tes qualités personnelles? (What are your an individual qualities?)

Quel as an Exclamation

Quel is also used when we desire to do an exclamation together as, “What a beautiful house!”

I don’t know about you, however I’m acquiring a Red speak Hood vibe here. So the next time you walk to your grandmother’s residence in the forest and an alert she has actually slightly larger teeth than usual, you’ll know to say, “Quelles grandes dents!” (What big teeth!)

A bonus allude is the the pronunciation of quel and that variants don’t change, only the spelling!

How to use “What” as a question Word

Que. For this reason simple. Therefore deadly. 

Why? since when questioning a question occasionally “what” can obtain confusing, in spite of the truth that it seems straightforward at first.

Que is your go-to buddy once wanting come ask a “what” question in French. It’s also usually followed by est-ce qui or est-ce que

The one you should use counts on even if it is que is followed by a topic or an object.

Subject: Qu’est-ce qui se passe? (What’s happening?)Object: Qu’est-ce que vous voulez? (What perform you want?)

Remember that when que is complied with by the vowel “e” it’s crucial to drop the critical “e” in que and add an apostrophe.

Que can also stand top top its own—and thanks to reverse (e.g. The swapping around of a pronoun and verb), we can see that in every its glory:

Que fais-tu aujourd’hui? (What space you doing today?)

How to usage “What” in the center of a Sentence

There space times when “what” isn’t required at the start or end of a sentence but instead in the middle. Type of favor a sandwich filling, or in grammatical state connecting two clauses together.

Since we’ve already taken a look at at est-ce qui and est-ce que in relationship to the subject and also object the a sentence, we deserve to breathe a sigh that relief, together this follows precisely the exact same principle. The only distinction is that we’re walking to take it our sandwich knife and also cut the est part away.

We’re now left v ce qui and ce que.

When”what” is the subject of the family member clause:On ne sait pas ce qui va se passer. (We don’t know what’s going to happen.)When “what” is the object of the family member clause:Montre-moi ce que tu as trouvé! (Show me what you found!)

Again, this takes a most practice, for this reason don’t beat you yourself up if you’re struggling!

How to usage “What” top top its Own, through Prepositions or at the end of a Sentence

Quoi also means “what,” and whenever you want to say it through itself as in the exclamation, “What!” the identical in French is “quoi!”

It have to be listed that quoishouldn’t be used in polite or formal situations when girlfriend haven’t heard something someone has actually said come you.

Quoi can likewise be “what” at the end of a sentence.

Il voit quoi? (What does that see?)

Again, this is informal and should be worked out with care depending on her situation.

When “what” is used with a preposition, the preposition comes an initial and then quoi.

De quoi s’agit-il? (What’s the about?)

Je me demande à quoi elle pense. (I wonder what she’s reasoning about.)

How to usage “What” v the Preposition De

If you’re still through me, congratulations for sticking out all this hard grammar!

Sometimes “what” after a preposition isn’t quoi but ce dont.

Ce dont is provided for verbs that usage de to present an indirect thing pronoun.

Let’s say I desire to express this in English: I want this television. It’s what i want.

In French, this becomes: J’ai envie de cette télévision. C’est ce not j’ai envie.

See more: In Which Sentence Are The Italicized Words A Dependent Clause? ?

As I’ve pointed out previously, mastering how to say “what” in French will take time. But, you’re off to a great start now!

The French “what” is in a sense part of a lot bigger photo because to really obtain the hang of it (in every its forms) you require to have a an excellent grasp that French prepositions and syntax among other things. But, that’s for one more day!

Sophie McDonald is a freelance content writer v a burning passion for writing and also languages. Girlfriend can find her Twitter page below where she will certainly most most likely be talking around writing and languages.

Download: This blog article is available as a convenient and portable PDF that youcan take anywhere. Click below to acquire a copy. (Download)