As children, most of us remember finding out the Five Ws—who, what, once, wright here and why.

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Easy, right?

Well, easy is debatable, especially as soon as it comes to “what” in French.

Regardless of the reality that it’s one of the initially things we learn as language learners, most of us are unconscious that the roots of mastering “what” go a lot deeper right into intermediate and also progressed soil.

But we don’t need to bury ourselves alive in hefty grammar.

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

If you make it all the way to the finish, you bet I’ll send you a online cookie!

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A Few Things to Consider First About “What” in French

It’s crucial to keep in mind there’s no precise translation of the English “what” to the French “what.”

“What” is a grammatical multitasker. It can interrogate favor a bad cop, define prefer a storyteller and even relocate freely within a sentence like the queen in chess. As French learners, once we understand also that, every little thing changes.

In English, we gain pretty supplied to utilizing the word “what” all willy nilly and also because of this, we think “what” is simply one point.

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

From this suggest on, both in this short article and out in the genuine human being of language finding out, let go of your inhibitions and also leave your anglophone “what” at the door.

Doing this will enable your brain to be even more accepting of other etymological possibilities. You’ll additionally be less tempted to translate, which as we’ll check out, hardly ever functions out.


If you desire to hear native French speakers use “what” in French in its many various constructs, has plenty of real-people content. takes real-civilization videos—favor music videos, movie trailers, news and also inspiring talks—and also transforms them into personalized language finding out lessons.

You’ll likewise uncover vocabulary lists and short quizzes that’ll administer you through the following best points to in-person language immersion.

But before you can begin practicing, you initially have to learn the basics of the French “what.”

So, right here we go!

How to Say “What” in French

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

Have you ever uncovered yourself on the verge of a mini-breakdown when the question you want to ask or the sentence you want to say in French includes “what?”

You go in thinking you know the word for “what” yet then it doesn’t sound quite best in your head.

And then you proceed to either not say anything at all (and go wpermit in ice cream) or think: “I can gain roughly this,” and also perform some weird linguistic detour that incites a required smile from the person you’re talking to.

Well, you’re not alone my friend!

In English, it’s common to use “what” prior to a noun, as in, “What is your favorite film?”

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

The French Word for “Which”

The French word for “which” is quel, and also it transforms create depending upon whether the noun that follows is masculine, feminine, singular or plural.

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

Quel as an Exclamation

Quel is additionally provided when we desire to make an exclamation such as, “What a beautiful house!”

I don’t understand about you, however I’m obtaining a Red Riding Hood vibe below. So the next time you go to your grandmother’s house in the woodland and also notification she has actually slightly larger teeth than usual, you’ll understand to say, “Quelles grandes dents!” (What significant teeth!)

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

How to Use “What” as a Concern Word

Que. So easy. So deadly. 

Why? Since once asking a question sometimes “what” deserve to obtain confmaking use of, despite the truth that it seems straightforward at first.

Que is your go-to buddy as soon as wanting to ask a “what” question in French. It’s also typically adhered to by est-ce qui or est-ce que

The one you should usage counts on whether que is followed by a topic or an item.

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

Remember that as soon as que is followed by the vowel “e” it’s vital to drop the last “e” in que and include an apostrophe.

Que deserve to also stand also on its own—and thanks to inversion (e.g. the swapping about of a pronoun and verb), we have the right to view it in all its glory:

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

How to Use “What” in the Middle of a Sentence

Tright here are times as soon as “what” isn’t essential at the start or finish of a sentence yet instead in the middle. Kind of favor a sandwich filling, or in grammatical terms connecting 2 clasupplies together.

Because we’ve already taken a look at at est-ce qui and est-ce que in relation to the subject and also object of a sentence, we can breathe a sigh of relief, as this adheres to specifically the same principle. The just difference is that we’re going to take our sandwich knife and also cut the est part ameans.

We’re now left with ce qui and also ce que.

When”what” is the topic of the relative clause:On ne sait pas ce qui va se passer. (We don’t recognize what’s going to occur.)When “what” is the object of the loved one clause:Montre-moi ce que tu as trouvé! (Sjust how me what you found!)

Aacquire, this takes the majority of exercise, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling!

How to Use “What” on its Own, via Prepositions or at the End of a Sentence

Quoi likewise implies “what,” and whenever before you want to say it by itself as in the exclamation, “What!” the identical in French is “quoi!”

It need to be listed that quoishouldn’t be used in polite or formal cases as soon as you haven’t heard something someone has shelp to you.

Quoi deserve to likewise be “what” at the finish of a sentence.

Il voit quoi? (What does he see?)

Aget, this is informal and must be worked out with treatment depending on your case.

When “what” is supplied via a preplace, the preplace comes initially and then quoi.

De quoi s’agit-il? (What’s it about?)

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

How to Use “What” through the Preposition De

If you’re still with me, congratulations for sticking out all this challenging grammar!

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

Ce dont is provided for verbs that usage de to introduce an instraight object pronoun.

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

In French, this becomes: J’ai envie de cette télévision. C’est ce dont j’ai envie.

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

The French “what” is in a feeling component of a much bigger photo bereason to really gain the hang of it (in all its forms) you should have an excellent grasp of French prepositions and syntax among various other points. But, that’s for one more day!

Sophie McDonald is a freelance content writer via a burning passion for creating and languperiods. You have the right to uncover her Twitter page below wbelow she will certainly most likely be talking about composing and languages.

Download: This blog short article is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you have the right to take almost everywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)