How To Say “What” in French — The 6 Ways to Express It

A simple way to understand six ways you can say “what” in French. The word “what” can be complicated when you translate it. It looks like a simple one-to-one translation, but the reality is that “what” is used in many expressions translated in many different words in other languages. “In French it is quoi – and sometimes it is – but the reality is that you need to understand a few other expressions in English. like “quoi”, suddenly they realize there are so many ways it can be used!)In this guide, we’ll explore some of the common ways in which “what” is used in English, then examine how to translate “what” into French in context. learner.What's in the French summary graphicMain Ways to Say “What” in French

What’s in French – Quick Summary


This summary provides an overview of the main ways to say “What” in French.1. Qu’est-ce que / qui2. Damn3. Que4. Quel 5. Ce que / qui / dont / à quoi6. Et si…?How to Say “What” in French – A Simple Guide

Qu’est-ce que / Qu’est-ce qui

The phrases qu’est-ce que and qu’est-ce qui look huge and unwieldy to people looking for a one-syllable translation, but people use it A LOT in French. is used as often as in English the sentence “what is…?” Really only the first part of it, the sentence in qu’est, is “what”. But the whole phrase is used together quite often in many cases. One is qu’est-ce lined upand one is qu’est-ce qui. You use que when talking about “objects” and qui when talking about “topics”. Let’s understand this through some examples.lined uplined uplined upquiquiExamples of “what” in French: Qu’est-ce que and qu’est-ce qui In fact, I think I rarely say qu’est-ce qui, and every time I do, it’s a phrase that stays in my head, like qu’est-ce qui se Pass? But it’s good to do it right – get it wrong and that sounds awkward.What's in French artwork - what do you mean by sidewalk graffiti

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Using sticks has a simple rule: Use sticks at the beginning of a sentence. There is only one common type of sentence that uses independent sticks. Note that que is abbreviated through contact if followed by a vowel. See the following examples of when to use que to say “what” in French.QuQueQueExamples of “what” in French: Qu’est-ce que and qu’est-ce qui


The word quoi is very useful in French, this is when you use it to say “what”:

  • Use quoi after a preposition, like à or de
  • Use quoi after verbs or at the end of sentences (less formal/colloquial grammar)
  • Use quoi as a standalone exclamation.

See the following examples of when to use quoi to say “what” in French.quoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiquoiWowExamples of “what” in French: Qu’est-ce que and qu’est-ce qui As you can see, quoi is quite useful! But remember, use the stick at the top.


Read more: What Soy Milk Tastes Like The word quel (or quelle, or quels, or quelles) translates naturally to “which” in English, but it appears in many of the expressions we commonly say” what”. You use quel or a variation when it resolves to a specific object that existsHere are some examples of when to use quel to say “what” in French:

  • Use quel or quelle (singular, but masculine/feminine) when asking about a specific noun, like a date, object, or someone’s name
  • Use any form of quel (singular/plural, masculine/feminine) when exclaiming the quality of something, such as “What a big house!”
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Quel example and its variations:QuelQuelleQuelleQuelQuelleQuelQuellesExamples of “what” in French – use quel and quels

Ce que / Ce qui / Ce Dont / Ce À quoi – “What” as an object

Finally, the phrases ce que and ce translate more naturally to “that which”, but we use them a lot to translate English phrases where we used “what”. As mentioned in the quoi section, you use quoi after a preposition. So you use ce à quoi or ce dont to say “what” when referring to an object. Of course, you can also use ce with other prepositions, but this is just a starter pack. As usual, just looking at it will be less boring. for example:okayokaywhat’s up?what’s up? I’m notI’m notI’m notI’m sorryit’s okayUsing ce to say “what” in French – examples of ce

Et Si? – “What if?”

Finally, there is a specific expression in French used to say “what if?” or “And if…?” You can sometimes hear French speakers say “And what if…?” to start a sentence. It sounds almost natural in English.

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