C'est quoi, Qu'est-ce que c'est ? = What's that?

Look at these questions:

Qu'est-ce que c'est?
What is it?

Qu'est-ce que tu fais?  
What are you doing?

A way to ask What [...]? in French is to use the expression Qu'est-ce que [...] ? followed by your statement in the normal order.

Note also that you use qu'est-ce que if it appears at the start but quoi at the end.  

Tu fais quoi?
What are you doing?

C'est quoi?
What is it?


What?

To simply ask What? on its own, using Quoi ?, though correct, is actually considered a bit abrupt and rude. Instead,we consider it more polite to use Comment ?:

Tu veux du thé ? - Quoi ?
Do you want tea? - What?

Tu veux du thé ? - Comment ?
Do you want tea? - What?

ATTENTION:

While qu'est-ce que means what ..., est-ce que introduces a YES or NO question (is it that...).

See Asking yes/no questions with intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas
Que can be used at the start, but the statement will then be inverted (it's a more formal way of asking questions).

See Forming inverted questions in Le Présent (except il, elle, on forms) 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Qu'est-ce que vous voulez voir?
What do you want to see?



Qu'est-ce que c'est?
What is it?


Qu'est-ce que tu fais?  
What are you doing?


Tu veux du thé ? - Comment ?
Do you want tea? - What?


Tu fais quoi?
What are you doing?


Tu veux du thé ? - Quoi ?
Do you want tea? - What?


C'est quoi?
What is it?


Q&A

Rob

Kwiziq community member

3 June 2018

2 replies

There is a typographical error in this lesson.

 "Instead, we'll consider more polite to use "Comment ?":"

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 June 2018

4/06/18

Hi Rob,

What's the typo in that sentence ?

Sarah

Kwiziq community member

22 August 2018

22/08/18

Should it say: We'll consider it more polite to use "Comment ?"

Patricia

Kwiziq community member

2 October 2017

2 replies

What vs Who

In my quiz question it began "Qu'est-ce que tu ....." and I answered "What .." but it showed the correct answer to begin with "Who .." I can't see how that is correct.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

4 October 2017

4/10/17

Bonjour Patricia, I am unable to locate the question in the kwiz that you are referring to; however, it is very possible that there is an incorrect question I know the team is quite appreciative to you for pointing this out as it helps them tremendously. In the meantime, here are a couple of locutions with their respective translations: qu'est-ce que --> that is what qu'est-ce qui --> that is what qui est-ce qui --> who is who J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait. Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 October 2017

17/10/17

"Qu'est-ce que s'est passé?" -- What happend. "Qui est-ce que tu as rencontré" -- Whom did you meet? Que = what. The final "e" gets nixed when followed by the "e" of "est". Qui = who. The final "i" is impervious to the vowel that succeeds it. -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Romni

Kwiziq community member

14 August 2017

1 reply

C.est quoi ça

Ron

Kwiziq community member

17 August 2017

17/08/17

Bonjour Romni, If possible, could you be more precise in your question. Bonne chance

Cameron

Kwiziq community member

28 January 2017

2 replies

How to ask what?

I was taught that to ask 'what' when you didn't understand what was just said, you would say, 'comment?' Is this correct or should I say 'quoi?' instead?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

3 February 2017

3/02/17

Bonjour Cameron ! This is indeed considered as more polite to use "Comment ?" rather than the blunter "Quoi ?" when asking "what?" in French. However, this only applies to asking "What?", and in any other more developed questions, "comment" reverts to its actual meaning of "how". I hope it's helpful! À bientôt !

Ann

Kwiziq community member

7 January 2018

7/01/18

I've been told both work.
Let me take a look at that...