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

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


C'est quoi?
What is it?


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?


Q&A Forum 5 questions, 8 answers

ShirA1Kwiziq community member

What does it mean by...

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

Asked 3 months ago
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor Correct answer

It means that you can't have quoi starting a sentence and, instead, use qu'est-ce que.

Qu'est-ce que tu fais? or Tu fais quoi? but NOT Quoi tu fais?

What does it mean by...

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

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RobC1Kwiziq community member

There is a typographical error in this lesson.

 "Instead, we'll consider more polite to use "Comment ?":"
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Rob,

What's the typo in that sentence ?

SarahA1Kwiziq community member
Should it say: We'll consider it more polite to use "Comment ?"

There is a typographical error in this lesson.

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

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PatriciaA2Kwiziq community member

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.
Asked 2 years ago
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
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
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
"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).

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.

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RomniA1Kwiziq community member

C.est quoi ça

Asked 2 years ago
RonC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
Bonjour Romni, If possible, could you be more precise in your question. Bonne chance

C.est quoi ça

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CameronC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

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?
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
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 !
AnnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
I've been told both work.

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?

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