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?
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?
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
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)
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