Qu'est-ce qui + [verb] = What [does]...

Look at these two questions asking What in English:

What are you doing?     
-> "you" is doing "what"; here "what" is the object of the action

What is making that noise?
-> "What" is doing the action of making the noise; it's the subject, the "acting" element of the sentence
In the first case, you can use qu'est-ce que, que or quoi in French:
Qu'est-ce que tu fais ? 
Que fais-tu ?
Tu fais quoi ?
See Questions with qui, que, quoi, quand, où, comment, pourquoi, combien

BUT
In the second case, you will only be able to use qu'est-ce qui + [verb clause]:
Qu'est-ce qui fait ce bruit ?

Look at these other examples:

Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé ?
What happened?

Qu'est-ce qui t'a pris autant de temps ?
What took you so long?

Qu'est-ce qui fait ce bruit ?
What is making that noise?

Qu'est-ce qui sent si mauvais ?
What smells so bad?

Qu'est-ce qui te prend ?
What's got into you?
[Literally: What is taking you?]


You will find this structure with a lot of "reversed" expressions, such plaire, manquer, etc...

Qu'est-ce qui te manque le plus ?
What do you miss the most?

Qu'est-ce qui te plaît chez Anna ?
What do you like about Anna?

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Qu'est-ce qui fait ce bruit ?
What is making that noise?


Qu'est-ce qui te plaît chez Anna ?
What do you like about Anna?


Qu'est-ce qui s'est passé ?
What happened?


Qu'est-ce qui t'a pris autant de temps ?
What took you so long?


Qu'est-ce qui te manque le plus ?
What do you miss the most?


Qu'est-ce qui sent si mauvais ?
What smells so bad?


Qu'est-ce qui te prend ?
What's got into you?
[Literally: What is taking you?]


Q&A

Liz

Kwiziq community member

8 June 2019

1 reply

How would you say: Who is bothering you using est-ce? Is Qui vous dérange ? OK usage? Thanks.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

8 June 2019

8/06/19

Hi Liz,

Although I agree that 'est-ce que' is a mouthful and awful to type , it is what is used in every day speech ...

Caroline

Kwiziq community member

31 May 2019

2 replies

I just can't 'get' this.

It is the 'like' that confuses me  there is no  'like' eg   ça sent comme du chocolate.  I cannot grasp 'who' is smelling or 'what' is smelling and I get it wrong each time!!!

Or how to send this quesiton!!!!!  Caroline

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 June 2019

2/06/19

In French there is no “like” as in English. Something doesn’t smell like chocolate, it just “smells chocolate”. Sounds weird, right.

Ça sent la chocolate. — That smells like chocolate. 

Caroline

Kwiziq community member

9 June 2019

9/06/19

That helps a lot!  I had no idea before! Thanks Caroline

Sara

Kwiziq community member

19 May 2019

2 replies

which is the subject, which the object?

Hi, in a reversed expression such as

Qu'est-ce qui te plaît chez Anna ?

which is the subject and which is the object? 

I’m guessing that the subject is that aspect of Anna’s personality which causes ‘you’ to like her. Therefore, since ‘you’ receive pleasure from that part of her personality, ‘you’ are the object. 

Is that correct?

Thanks in advance!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

20 May 2019

20/05/19

The literal translation is: What is it that is pleasant to you at Anna?

In the subordinate clause, the subject is qui (that) and the indirect object is te (to you).

Sara

Kwiziq community member

20 May 2019

20/05/19

Thanks so much for your help Chris! Much appreciated. 

Ronaldino

Kwiziq community member

18 April 2019

1 reply

Here's how I understood, Qui est-ce qui= Who?

Ronaldino

Kwiziq community member

18 April 2019

18/04/19

Qui est-ce-que= Whom?                                                                                                                                

Eg: Qui est-ce qui fait la biologie? Who does Biology.                                                                                Qui est-ce qui ma prof? Who is my teacher?                                                                                         Qui est-ce que vous avez vu? Whom did you see?                                                                                Qui est-ce qu'elle a vu? Whom did she see?                                                                                       Qu'est-ce qui= What?                                                                                                                                  In this case, what is the subject and performs the verb                                                                      Qu'est-ce que=What?                                                                                                                                  In this case what is the object and the recipient of the verb.                                                           Eg: Qu'est-ce qui fait ce bruit? What is making that noise?                                                                        Qu'est-ce qui m'a fait peur? What scared me?                                                                                        Qu'est-ce que tu as vu? What did you see?                                                                                            Qu'est-ce que vouz avez pris? What did you take?

Ian

Kwiziq community member

14 March 2019

2 replies

Is "Qu'est-ce que c'est qui sent mauvais" incorrect?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

14 March 2019

14/03/19

Hi Ian,

It is either -

Qu'est-ce qui...?

or 

Qu'est-ce que ...?

so in your example:

Qu'est ce qui sent mauvais? 

Qu'est-ce que j'entends? What do I hear?

Qu'est-ce qui vous arrive? What's happening to you?

Qu'est-ce que vous m'apportez? What are you bringing to me?

Qu'est-ce qui ne va pas? What's wrong with you? 

Hope this helps!

Ian

Kwiziq community member

14 March 2019

14/03/19

It does. Thanks Cecile! 

Johanna

Kwiziq community member

2 March 2019

2 replies

Not relevant to this lesson but I listened to the audio and the final s on “le plus” was pronounced. Is there a rule or lesson on this?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

3 March 2019

3/03/19

Hi Johanna, 

As a rule of thumb,  when ‘plus’ has the positive meaning of ‘more’ , the final ‘s’ will be pronounced . There are some exceptions but that’s the general rule.

When it has the negative meaning of ‘no more’, ‘no longer‘ in ‘ne ...plus’  it won’t be pronounced.

I don’t believe there is a lesson on this at the moment ....

 

Johanna

Kwiziq community member

3 March 2019

3/03/19

Thanks.i hope I remember this! 

Alex

Kwiziq community member

11 February 2019

0 replies

Qu'est-ce qui marche le mieux ?

What is the difference between:

Qu'est-ce qui marche le mieux ?

and the Que from the interrogative lesson Questions: Que ... = What?, e.g. :

Que marche le mieux?

What's the best way to recognize what is the best solution to use? The first thing that jumps out to me is that Que marche le mieux might be incorrect b/c there is not really a subject, but I would appreciate a more formal explanation, thank you!

Robin

Kwiziq community member

31 December 2018

2 replies

example phrases could use more explanation

This lesson is a bit confusing to me.  The grammar rule is stated very clearly but then the examples are confusing.  Just a suggestion but I think to make this lesson less confusing perhaps there could be more explanation of the examples.  Also reading the English translation makes it seem like the what is the subject but then the french translation seems like the what is the complement of the verb.  Then, the example that confused me the most in this lesson was one of the quiz questions.

Robin

Kwiziq community member

31 December 2018

31/12/18

This phrase is the one that I am confused by: 

Qu'est-ce qui te manque le plus ?

Que of qu'est-ce qui means I'm talking about a thing.  Qui means the what is the subject of the verb... the confusing part to me is that the subject of the verb seems to be "you" of you miss the most.  That missing is the verb and whatever is missed would be the object of the verb?  In that sense I don't understand yet why qui is used.  thank you.

Robin

Kwiziq community member

31 December 2018

31/12/18

so I think it would be very helpful if the reversed structures using verbs manquer or plaire part of this lesson, were explained in more detail.

This is covered at the end of the lesson with just this comment but no real explanation or breakdown:  You will find this structure with a lot of "reversed" expressions, such plaire, manquer, etc.. - so we see it but it's not explained.  Just my feedback as a user...  thank you.

Kev

Kwiziq community member

1 September 2018

0 replies

The best explanation I’ve seen yet (from an anonymous Wordforum contributor)

The first qui/que (Qui/Qu'est-ce…) and the second one (… est-ce qui/que) play different grammatical roles and indicate different things:
The first refers to the nature of what you are inquiring about: is it a person or a thingQui est-ce… is for people and Qu'est-ce… is for things.The second refers to the grammatical function of the unknown person or thing in your question: is it the subject or the complement of a verb? …est-ce qui is for subjects and …est-ce que is for complements.Examples:

Qui est-ce qui fait X ? → Who is doing X?
The first qui indicates that you're asking about a person ("who"), while the second qui implies that the unknown person performs the action of the verb: this person is doing X. 
Short form: Qui fait X ?

Qui est-ce que tu as vu ? → Whom did you see? or commonly Who did you see?
The qui indicates that you're asking about a person ("who" or "whom"), while the que implies that this unknown person is the complement of the verb "to see": the unknown person got seen, and tu is the one who saw them.
Short form: Qui as-tu vu ? (requires inversion)

Note that the English language requires (theoretically, in formal contexts) two different words to ask about people: Who = Qui + qui while Whom = Qui + que.

Qu'est-ce qui fait X ? → What is doing X?
The que (elided to qu') indicates that you're asking about a thing ("what"), while the qui implies that this unknown thing performs the action of the verb: the thing is doing X.
No short form in everyday usage.

Qu'est-ce que tu as vu ? → What did you see?
The first que (elided to qu') indicates that you're asking about a thing ("what"), while the second que implies that the unknown thing is the complement of the verb "to see": tu is the person who saw something, the unknown thing is what got seen.
Short form: Qu'as-tu vu ? (requires inversion)

Donald

Kwiziq community member

11 July 2018

1 reply

Qu'est-ce qui te fait penser ça?

D'habitude, quand vous avez introduit une nouvelle tournure comme <qu'est-ce qui te fait penser ça>, j'aime bien essayer d'utiliser soit <en> soit <y>.  Dans ce cas-ci, où on se trouve soit <en> soit <y> au lieu de <ça>.  J'ai du mal à trouver où on met les deux mots.  Autement dit, qu'est-ce qui te en fait penser ou qu'est-ce qui te fait en penser ou peut-etre on utile <y>.  Penser à ou Penser de?  Peut-etre ce n'est pas possible d'utiliser ni l'un ni l'autre.  Merci d'avance.  Don

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

21 July 2018

21/07/18

Hi Donald,

"Qu'est-ce qui te fait penser ça?" literally means "What makes you think that?"

If for instance you hear someone saying, "Je pense à Maman...", you might ask

"Qu'est-ce qui t'y fait penser? Y replacing Maman.

Hope this helps!

Getting that for you now.