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 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?]


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


Q&A Forum 16 questions, 39 answers

No liaison after qui?

A quiz question has this answer:

"Qu'est-ce qui a changé entre nous ?"

Why there's no liaison after "qui", like "... qu'a changé..."?

Asked 3 weeks ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

That works only if the first vowel is "e", not "i".

Qui est là?  (no liaison between qui and est, because of the "i")
Qu'est-ce que tu as fait?
(liaison between que and est, because of "e").

No liaison after qui?

A quiz question has this answer:

"Qu'est-ce qui a changé entre nous ?"

Why there's no liaison after "qui", like "... qu'a changé..."?

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LizB2

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

Asked 3 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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 ...

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

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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

Asked 3 months ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

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

Ça sent le chocolat — That smells like chocolate. 

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

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

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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!

Asked 4 months ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

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

In the subordinate clause, the subject is qu'est-ce qui (what) and the indirect object is te (to you).

Thanks so much for your help Chris! Much appreciated. 

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!

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

Asked 5 months ago

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?

CécileKwiziq language super star

Hi Ronaldino,

Have tried (unsuccessfully) to re-format the above so that I could answer your question.

Could you do it please and I'll attempt a reply?

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

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IanC1

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

Asked 6 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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!

IanC1

It does. Thanks Cecile! 

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

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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?

Asked 6 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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 ....

 

Thanks.i hope I remember this! 

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?

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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!

Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Hi Alex,

'Que marche le mieux' is indeed incorrect as que is an object and doesn't work with the verb 'marcher' which is intransitive ( has no object).

Here are a few examples using que and qu'est ce qui -

Que voulez-vous ? What do you want ? 

Que me racontez-vous! = What are you telling me!

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

You might say -

Qui marche le plus vite ? = Who walks the fastest?

Hope this helps.

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!

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RobinA2

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.

Asked 8 months ago
RobinA2

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.

RobinA2

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.

Robin asked:View original

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.

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KevB2

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)
Asked 1 year ago

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)

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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
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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!

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

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

Asked 1 year ago
AurélieKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

Bonjour Sara !

At the moment, you can search the Fill-in-the-blanks practice exercises on the blog :
https://french.kwiziq.com/blog/fun-ways-to-learn-french/

But here's the relevant link, to save you time ;)
https://french.kwiziq.com/blog/une-petite-soeur-tres-curieuse-questions-practice/

Bonne journée !

 

 

CécileKwiziq language super star

Hi Suzanne, 

Which two do you mean ? 

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....

AurélieKwiziq language super star

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 !

hello , 

to me you don't choose between "qu'est ce qui " and "qu'est ce que " but "qui " and "que  ("est-ce que" is only a formula to ask a standard question) , with two different questions words "que" (what ) and "qui" (who ) , "qu'est-ce qui" is another kind of structure more idiomatic , and to put these two questions in the same level seems to me inaccurate.

Hi Aurélie, 

Thanks for that. May I know where we can access this gapfill exercise? I tried doing a search for it in the website search box & looking up the FAQs, but to no avail. 

Many thanks!

Thanks Aurélie - much appreciated!! 

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

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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)?
Asked 1 year ago
ChrisC1Correct answer

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).

Thanks Chris.
ditto for me...any responses yet?

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)?

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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
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

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!

RonC1
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 !
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).
RonC1
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

Hello Chris , brilliant French by the way , impressive ! One comment though , I find confusing to put "qu'est ce qui"  and " qu'est ce que ", because your direct object(question word)  in the latter is not "que " per se but "qu' "! Actually the "que" you allude to is just a part of the formula to ask a standard question in French (est-ce que), hence my confusion.  

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

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How would you say who smells chocolate?

Asked 1 year ago
RonC1Correct answer
qui sent le chocolat
Thank you Ron.
Or, alternatively, "Qui est-ce qui sent le chocolat" -- Chris (not a native speaker).
Thank you.

How would you say who smells chocolate?

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RodC1

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

Asked 1 year ago
RodC1
Sorry, meant Qu’est-ce qui te manque
RonC1
Bonjour Rod, Ah, one of my favorite French verbs. Here is the lesson that covers «manquer à»: Manquer (à) = To miss someone/something emotionally 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.

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.

RonC1

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.

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

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