Is it more appropriate to say use Qu'est-ce que c'est que in spoken form?

AnishA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Is it more appropriate to say use Qu'est-ce que c'est que in spoken form?

...and Qu'est-ce que c'est is appropriate written form. What did we mean by more formal?
Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer
Bonjour Anish (and Max) !

Max, I find it weird that you heard "Qu'est-ce" on its own, as it's very old-fashioned and antiquated...

The nuance is between "Qu'est-ce que + thing" vs "Qu'est-ce que c'est que + thing" to express "What is + thing":
"Qu'est-ce que la Tour Eiffel ?"
vs
"Qu'est-ce que *c'est que* la Tour Eiffel ?"

The first one is more formal as it's simply the inverted form (always considered more elegant), whereas the second one is more colloquial, and will be more used in everyday speech.
I would actually add that the most common way to ask this in colloquial speech would be a third option:
"C'est quoi, la Tour Eiffel ?"

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !
AurélieKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Bonjour Mary !

In the first case, you're asking confirmation that it is indeed the Eiffel Tower:

C'est bien la Tour Eiffel ?
or
C'est ça la Tour Eiffel ? (a bit more disdainful)

The second case is actually asking what the Eiffel Tower is:

Qu'est-ce que c'est, la Tour Eiffel ?
C'est quoi, la Tour Eiffel ?

...

Bonne journée !

MaxC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
In today's French, I often hear "Qu'est-ce?" - such as on TV5MONDE or podcats. I'm old school and prefer the longer older form. But I am not a native speaker.
AnishA1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Dear Aurélie / Max, thank you for the answers. Is it right to use "Qu'est-ce que *c'est que* la Tour Eiffel?" in written form or is it only restricted to colloquial speech. Regards Anish
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Anish ! It's not considered very elegant to use it in wirtten form: we'll prefer the "qu'est-ce que" option :) Bonne journée !
MaryA1Kwiziq community member
What is the difference between saying "Is that the Eiffel Tower" and "What is the Eiffel Tour"?

Is it more appropriate to say use Qu'est-ce que c'est que in spoken form?

...and Qu'est-ce que c'est is appropriate written form. What did we mean by more formal?

Sign in to submit your answer

Don't have an account yet? Join today

Ask a question

Find your French level for FREE

Test your French to the CEFR standard

Find your French level
How has your day been?