How to say ‘what’ in the French language

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French Language

How to say ‘what’ in the French language

The roots of learning “what” go far deeper into intermediate and advanced soil, despite the fact that it is one of the first things we acquire as language learners. However, keep calm. Let’s keep things straightforward and consider the numerous ways that “what” is expressed in French.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the word “what” from English to French cannot be translated exactly. Multiple uses for the grammatical multitasker “what” exist. It may also take the form of a query, a description, or a justification.

How to use the French “which” as the English “what”

Have you ever been on the edge of losing it because the French sentence or question you wanted to ask contained the word “what”? The word for “what” that you believe you are using doesn’t quite sound right in your thoughts.

A forced smile is given by the person you are speaking to as a result of some bizarre linguistic digression you make. “What” is frequently used in English before a noun, as in the sentence “What is your favorite book?” However, you must take into account “which” in French, as in “Which is your favorite book?”

The French word for “which” is quel, and it has many variants depending on the gender of the noun that comes after it.

– Masculine: Quel

Quel est son nom? (What’s his name?)

– Feminine: Quelle

Quelle est la date d’aujourd’hui? (What’s the date today?)

– Masculine plural: Quels

Quels sont les avantages d’habiter en ville? (What are the advantages of living in town?)

– Feminine plural: Quelles

Quelles sont tes qualités personnelles? (What are your personal qualities?)

‘What’ as a question word

When asking a question, the word “what” can be confusing, even if it appears simple at first. When you want to ask a “what” question in French, turn to Que. It is often followed by est-ce qui or est-ce queue.

The one to use is determined by whether que is followed by a subject or an object.

– Subject: Qu’est-ce qui se passe? (What’s happening?)

– Object: Qu’est-ce que vous voulez? (What do you want?)

Remember that when que is followed by the vowel “e” it’s necessary to drop the last “e” in que and add an apostrophe. Keen to learn the French language? Let’s move forward.

“What” in the middle of a sentence

There are times when “what” is required in the middle of a sentence rather than at the beginning or end. Like connecting two clauses.

We can breathe a sigh of relief because this follows exactly the same principle as est-ce qui and est-ce que in relation to the subject and object of a sentence. The only difference is that we will remove the est part.

We are now left with ce qui and ce que.

When” what” is the subject of the relative 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 relative clause:

– Montre-moi ce que tu as trouvé! (Show me what you found!)

“What” with prepositions or at the end of a sentence

Quoi also means “what,” and when used alone, as in the exclamation “What!” the equivalent in French is “quoi!” It should be noted that the word quoi should not be used in polite or formal situations when you have not heard what someone has said 

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

– Il voit quoi? (What does he see?)

(This is informal and should be exercised with care depending on your situation).

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

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

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

“What” with the preposition De

Sometimes “what” after a preposition isn’t quoi but ce dont. Ce dont is used for verbs that use de to introduce an indirect object pronoun.

Let’s say 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 dont j’ai envie.


Never forget that learning a foreign language involves consistent effort. You will need to do a lot of homework in order to learn French grammar and how to use terms like “what” in French. We advise that you begin with the fundamentals and progress to the more advanced levels gradually. learn with

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