Welcome to the real language of French. This sentence may be taken in two very different ways. "What do you have?" and "What's wrong?" There are many expressions in French that cannot be understood by means of a literal translation. We must understand them as a single translation unit. A literal translation may not produce the intended meaning. There are different versions of this expression:
- Qu'est-ce qu'il y a ? (which itself contains another expression (il y a) which is never translated literally.
- Qu'as-tu (ou) Qu'avez-vous ?
- Quel est ton/votre problème ?
- ...just to name a few
The first step is to recognize the expression as an idiom and then translate it into the comparable English expression.
An idiom is a phrase where the meaning of the whole transcends the meaning of the individual words and is part of the standard language. There is a big list of them here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_idioms
That would be a literal, word-for-word translation. I suppose it's not wrong, but we would be far more likely to say in English "What do you have?" And further, this is primarily an idiom which really means "What's wrong/what's the matter?"
Translating word-for-word often does not work.
I got this wrong but the idiom is a pretty straightforward arrival.
- avoir mal (à) == to be in pain, to hurt somewhere
J'ai mal à la tête. == I have a headache. Qu'est-ce que tu as ? Tu as mal à la tête ?
What I haven't figure out from the conversation here or looking online is if this is (generally) a neutral query of concern? A bald, "What's the matter with you?", in English can easily be confrontational. Does this French idiom share the same range or is it generally/mostly a straight forward question about what might be causing someone pain or discomfort?
I gave "What do you have?" and that was accepted. Duo gave the alternate translation as "What's wrong?" which seems to be the more correct answer. This leaves me with these questions: Can "Qu'est-ce que tu as?" express "What do you have?" If not, then how would one ask "What do you have?" in French?
“est-ce que” means something like: “is it (true), that …” and is used to introduce a yes-no question.
E.g. “Tu es une femme.” / “Est-ce que tu es une femme?” – “You are a woman.” / “Are you a woman?” (Is it (true), that you are a woman?)
“qu’est-ce que” (que est …) on the other hand means something like “what is it, that …” and is used to ask for an object.
E.g. “Qu’est-ce que tu bois?” – “What do you drink?” (What is it, that you drink?)
None of the words in the French sentence directly translates as "wrong".
Often when translating from one language to another we need to consider the underlying meaning and how a phrase is used rather than the meaning of each individual word in the sentence.
The literal translation of "Qu'est-ce que tu as?" is "What do you have?" "What have you got" but in French this is understood to be the equivalent of "What's up?" or What's the matter?".
So here Duo is giving "What's wrong" as a valid alternative to "What's up?/What's the matter?"
'what is it that you have' should be included if the correct answers are 'what is it', 'what's wrong' and 'what do you have'. depending on where you are in the English speaking world (England/Australia here) it's perfectly normal to interchange the longer version of 'what is it that you have' with what do you have (or the other two meanings)
If we persist in entering literal translations when we are presented with a French idiom, we will never learn how to use the French idiom correctly. Or if you want to ask someone in French, "what's wrong", will you first have to remember, oh yes, I have to say "what is it that you have" and then translate that to French. No, learn the meaning of the idiom, not the literal translation.
Bonjour Lairdlewis, this is not slang but an idiom. There are quite a few good explanations about the construction and translation of this sentence within this discussion thread, and, as another Duolinguist kindly informed me some months ago, there is an Idiom module we can buy with our ingots if we want to investigate further.
Hope that helps? :]
If you are going with the literal meaning, rather than the idiom, then I think it is "What do you have?". Your translation adds something else, because it suggests that the item owned is right there, and that you are pointing to it. Compare: "What do you have?" "I have the flu." or " I have seven of them at home." With: "What's that you have?" "This? Just some sushi I bought for lunch."