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 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?]


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?


Q&A

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!

Suzanne

Kwiziq community member

7 July 2018

3 replies

How could we find a focused practice where we would select the correct form between these two?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

18 July 2018

18/07/18

Hi Suzanne, 


Which two do you mean ? 

Suzanne

Kwiziq community member

20 July 2018

20/07/18

Not certain why this question would be so out of context since it related to an existing thread where it seemed everyone was confused. The foucs practice would ask the test taker to choose between Qu'est-ce qui and Qu'est-ce que....

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

20 July 2018

20/07/18

Bonjour Suzanne !


Cécile's confusion came from the fact that your question wasn't posted as a reply to the existing thread, but as a new question, which we see independently :)


I agree with your request, and I have produced a Gap Fill exercise on this distinction to be published in the coming weeks :) 


I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

yellamaraju

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2018

3 replies

Qu'est-ce qui te plaît chez Anna ?

The meaning provided in the example was: "What do you like about Anna?. I guess it should be "What do you like about Anna's (home)?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

5 February 2018

5/02/18

Actually, in this case it really means "about Anne" and not about Anne's home. The little word "chez" can also stand for "about" and "among" in some contexts.


Chez lui c'est une obsession. -- With him it's an obsession.


Chez les Français on parle français. -- Among the French one speaks French.


Just when you thought things were simple....


 


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

yellamaraju

Kwiziq community member

6 February 2018

6/02/18

Thanks Chris.

kristin

Kwiziq community member

6 March 2018

6/03/18

ditto for me...any responses yet?

david

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2017

4 replies

What is the rule as to when Qu'est-ce qui is used rather than Que?

I have read through the lesson twice. There are many examples given but no clear guidance as to what they are supposed to be illustrating? Please could someone clarify? Thanks very much, David

Ron

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2017

26/11/17

Bonjour David,
Qu'est-ce que and que are pretty much synonymous ---> what. Qu'est-ce qui, when using this phrase, it will ALWAYS be followed by a verb whereas qu'est-ce que will be followed USUALLY by a noun or other subject in the same manner as que tu est triste instead qui est triste.
Here are a couple of links that might help:
https://www.thoughtco.com/qui-vs-que-1368925 (this one is written by Laura from this site)
https://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/int5.html
Hopefully these additional resources can help clarify this for you.

Bonne chance et bonne continuation !

Chris

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2017

26/11/17

You use "Qu'est-ce qui..." if "qui" is the subject of the following sentence. And you use "qu'est-ce que..." if "que" is the direct object of the sentence. For example:

Qu'est-ce que tu as fait? -- What is it that you did? (literal translation)
Here "you" is the subject of the clause and "que" (=that) is the direct object. Hence: que.

Qu'est-ce qui fait le bruit? -- What is it that makes this noise?
"Qui" is the subject of the clause (... THAT makes the noise), hence "qui" and not "que".

Did that help any?

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Ron

Kwiziq community member

28 November 2017

28/11/17

Bonsoir,
While I fully understand the response given by Chris, I still have a relevant question.
After re-reading this question that was posed, I have the sense that possibly we both missed the intent of the question. My take-away is this:
In what scenario would one choose to use «qu'est-ce qui» instead of just «que» and vice versa. Also in the same manner when would one use «qui est-ce qui» instead of just «qui»?
Most things concerning the French language have definite guidelines when one form is preferred over another, is there a similar guideline for these examples? I have re-read the lesson and cannot find a discernible explanation.

Merci en avance,
Ron

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

10 April 2018

10/04/18

Hi David,


If what you are asking is the difference between: Qu'est-ce-qui? and Qu'est-ce que? both meaning 'What?', then it is a question of grammar. 'What' being the subject or the object in the sentence. Have a look at the following examples:


Qu'est-ce-qui est arrivé? ( What happened?), in this sentence 'What' is the subject of the verb to happen.


Quest-ce-que tu veux? ( What do you want?), in this sentence 'What' is the object of the verb to want.


Hope this helps!

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2017

4 replies

How would you say who smells chocolate?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

29 October 2017

29/10/17

qui sent le chocolat

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

30 October 2017

30/10/17

Thank you Ron.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

30 October 2017

30/10/17

Or, alternatively, "Qui est-ce qui sent le chocolat"

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

4/11/17

Thank you.

Rod

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2017

4 replies

Qu’est-ce que te manque .. means What are you missing. Why is it te and not tu? Tx

Rod

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2017

27/10/17

Sorry, meant Qu’est-ce qui te manque

Ron

Kwiziq community member

27 October 2017

27/10/17

Bonjour Rod,
Ah, one of my favorite French verbs. Here is the lesson that covers «manquer à»:
https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/my-languages/french/view/4559
Here is the lesson on using «plaire». I am sure there are other verbs in French that use the structure reversal but these are the two that I am most familiar with.
Basically, one states in French that «someone is missing to me» Quelqu'un me manque. when translated --> I miss (or lack) SOMEONE.
Please read over the two referenced lessons above and if that does not provide clarification,
here are a couple of other links that might help:
https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-say-i-miss-you-in-french-1369632
https://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/french-vocabulary/i-miss-you-tu-me-manques-how-to-use-the-verb-manquer-in-french
I hope you find this useful.
Bonne chance.

Suzanne

Kwiziq community member

7 July 2018

7/07/18

What would be the most helpful would be an exercise with 10-20 questions where I was asked to select between Qu'est-ce que and Qu-est-ce qui. That is really the question - will I be able to select the right one in the right situation. 


Are there any focused exercises like this anywhere in Kwiziq? I heard there were but I haven't managed to find them.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

7 July 2018

7/07/18

Bonjour Suzanne,


While I know the grammar explanation to your question, the simplest way that I have found to remember the difference is this:


qu'est-ce que is usually followed by a noun subject


qu'est-ce qui is usually followed by a verb


While I understand this is an over-simplification, the structure in a phrase almost always is like this.


Let me take a look at that...