Ok, so what I understand is that Que refers to the direct object, Quoi refers to the indirect object. So when you are to ask "What?" generally you are referring to the indirect object because... you don't know what they said!
But overall don't say "Quoi" unless you are familiar with the person. "Comment?" is much more polite, or "Comment vous dites" is most polite.
"que" cannot stand alone nor at the end of a question.
"quoi" is used as a stand-alone or at the end of informal questions.
- que dis-tu ? (formal) = tu dis quoi ? (informal) = qu'est-ce que tu dis ? (standard)
The more polite "comment ?" is used to ask someone to repeat what they just said, and it is short for "comment dis-tu ?" which is idiomatic and less formal than "que dis-tu ?".
In English, "what?" should naturally and directly translate to "quoi ?" as a general question prompting an answer in the form of a piece of information.
The following dialogue is possible, where "comment" would not be correct:
- A: Sais-tu ce que j'aimerais ? = Do you know what I would like?
- B: Quoi ? = What?
- A: Un gros gâteau au chocolat =A big chocolate cake.
"Comment" is a polite way of saying "What?" Pardon is self-explanatory. "Quoi" is familiar "What?" Think about it in english. We usually say "I'm sorry" instead of "What?" as it can be quite rude.
"Que" is not found by itself at all in french (correct me if I'm wrong). Although it generally means "that" when in the middle of the sentence, when at the beginning of a sentence it means what + a verb (usually with inversion). Ex. "Qu'est-ce que....", "Que manges-tu?" However, it can me "what" in the middle of the sentence if used with "ce." Ex. "Je veux ce que tu as."
Since "quoi" is an object, if a verb ends in a preposition, you can start a sentence with the preposition + quoi. Ex. "À quoi ça sert." Think about "pourquoi" here... "for what" has a suspiciously similar meaning as "why."
It is interesting. Reading the french way of putting words together makes me realize how much English has been altered to simplified speech. For example, using ce + que would be originally translated as that which "Je veux ce que tu as = I want that which you have" rather than generalizing to 'what'. Just a side note. :-) I am enjoying this App much more than I had expected to.
Agreed! When I translated "Comment?" as "What?", DuoLingo said that was correct. But when I translated "What?" as "Comment?" (for this item), DuoLingo said I was incorrect. A glitch in the program, perhaps?
In this lesson, The correct word for "What" is Quoi. The word "Comment" also means "How" in French. It is not a glitch, and I'm sorry you got it wrong.
Disagree. In conversational French, which is presumably the goal of Duolingo., asking the question "What?" would be translated as "Comment?" "Quoi?" sounds brusque to fluent speakers.
I live in Quèbec, and I've never heard anyone say, "Quoi?" Even amongst friends, they always say, "Comment?"
I ain’t not no expert or nothin’, but let’s try and clear the air a bit… In English, we use to word “what” to mean a lot of things: 1. What is that? (direct object). 2. What are you talking about? (indirect object). 3. What time is it? What book do you want? (which), 4. What a good book! (exclamative adjective) or just 5. What? (pardon?) … Among others…
French has different words for these:
- “Que”, as seen in “Qu’est’-ce que c’est?” (What is that?) for example, is ‘WHAT’ being used as the DIRECT subject. “Que dit-il?” (What does he say?)
- Quoi is used for an INDIRECT object, for example “A quoi pensent-elles?” (What are they thinking ABOUT) or “Avec quoi a-t-il coupe le pain?” (WITH what did he cut the bread?). These "with"s and "at"s and "about"s etc. are called prepositions.
Notice these were not subject/object distinctions, but rather differences in how directly they were referred to.
[formatting isssues with Duolino, please refer to the [numbers] from here on]:
 Quel? (as well as quelle, quels, and quelles, depending on the gender/number of nouns) is like saying which: “Quel film tu recommanderais?” = (Which film would you recommend?) ... "Quels sont vos favoris?" (Which are your favourites?)
 BUT also can be used with a preposition “A quelle heure part Pierre” = “[at] what time does Pierre leave?” ...
 Exclamative adjective… for example, “Quel livre interessant!” (What an interesting book!) Or, “Quel rat!” (what a rat!)
 What? As in Pardon? Is “Comment?”
Any questions? On second thought, I don’t think it’s any clearer …
Sources: Hawkins Towell. French Grammar and Usage. 2001, 2nd ed. and Lawless, L. French.about.com/od/mistakes/a/what.htm. 2014.
Thanks for all those explanations, very helpful, though I do feel sorry for anyone who's learning 'English', trying to decipher your first sentence :)
It is impolite to use "Quoi?" in this sense. The French would say "Comment? Vous dites?/ Tu dis?"
I thought you were supposed to avoid saying 'Quoi?" because it makes you sound like a duck, and that "Comment?" was more commonly used?
That takes me back! I remember my French teacher at school saying that...
Apparently que is never correct. I was just asked to select all correct translations for 'what?' and selected both quoi and que and got it wrong because que is incorrect...
Comment is normally the polite and formal version of quoi. You use quoi when you are talking to friends. I have been living in france for 6 months so i just say this out of experience from living there.
why "comment" is wrong?
to give this test here to the self-study beginners is kind of too fast and difficult. it would make the beginners more confused, i am lost somehow.
This very lesson lists definitions of "what" as quoi, comment and que. So two of the answers should be correct.
My understanding is that "quoi" is more the type of thing that a little kid would say and that "comment" (while literally meaning "how") is the more polite, grown up way to ask "what?" for clarification.
what is the difference between que, est ce que, quoi and quel ? When do we use which ? Please help :(
Thank you very much. I will refer to this article, but it is a lot to remember!!
When 'what' comes in the end of any sentence in french it doesn't remain 'que' rather it becomes 'quoi'.
why is "what time is it" translated to Quelle but you ask for the translation of "what" and it is wrong. I think both quelle and quoi are correct depending on the sentence and how it is being used!
Can 'Quoi?' be used as an alternative to 'Pardon?'; is it impolite to just say "what?" ?
I don't know for sure, but its either direct/indirect objects, or masculine/feminine objects.
Context, "comment" only works when you did not understand what someone just said.
I think it means 'what is this', which refers to an object but the question asked for what (which makes wether or not there is an object ambigious, meaning that it is quoi)
My Collins dictionary lists. What? ( what did you say) Comment? What! (shocked) Quoi!
Isn't any moderator to this? Why que is incorrect? Why not put quoi as alternative answer?
"que" cannot stand alone or be placed at the end of a question.
"quoi" is used as a stand-alone or it replaces "que" at the end of a question.
- que dis-tu ? (formal) = tu dis quoi ? (informal)
"quelle" is an adjective, so you would need a feminine singular noun to follow:
- quelle heure (est-il) ?
It should be according to this paragraph: And finally, when you didn't hear or didn't understand what someone just said and you'd like them to repeat it, use the interrogative adverb comment , which is considered nicer than saying quoi (the only reason I've ever heard for this is the latter sounds like a duck quacking.) http://french.about.com/od/mistakes/a/what.htm
Quel is an interrogative French adjective that means which or what and has four forms: masculine singular (quel) and plural (quels), feminine singular (quelle) and plural (quelles). For example, quel jour sommes-nous? (What day is it?) Quelle heure est-il? (What time is it?) Quels fruits aimez-vous? (Which fruits do you like?) Quelles sont tes couleurs préférées? (What are your favorite colors?)
I don't know why, but I keep on getting the same questions. Had this three times already, in the same lesson
Sometimes it does this but asks in different ways. You might have to say it, write what you hear, translate it into English or translate it from English.
« Quelle » is closer to "which" although there is some overlap with "what". As a single word interrogative phrase, you'd say "What?" « Quoi ? », not "Which?" « Quelle ? ».
"quelle" is an adjective that cannot stand alone to form a question:
- quelle fille ? = which girl?
- quelle est ta taille ? = what is your size?
That literally means "what is it that?" which doesn't make sense in French either.
Please i have study french but i only heard about que and qu'est ce que but i have never heard of quoi what does it mean
The French words « que », « qui », « quoi », « quel(le) », « quand », « où », « comment » don't always match "that", "who", "what", "which", "when", "where", "how" as you would expect.
« quoi » means "what", but you can't use it everywhere where you'd use "what" in English.
Here is an article explaining the many ways to translate "what" by French language expert Laura Lawless: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-in-french-1369498
When I lived in Paris, while they said 'Quoi ?' they told me it wasn't grammatically correct, and that the correct form is 'De quoi ?', which they also commonly said. Can anyone correct me on this?
There are several contexts where "quoi" or "de quoi" can be used.
As a way to have someone repeat what they just said, none is polite.
But both can be grammatically correct.
- Devine ce que j'ai fait hier soir (Guess what I did last night)
- Quoi ? (= What... did you do last night?)
- Tu sais, il m'en a parlé... (You know, he told me about it)
- De quoi ? (= About what... did he tell you?)
This is stupid i have never on the history of all the french i have been taught we have never learned quoi to be what it hasa always been que est-ce que
I have taken a french class for 3 years and the "what" words in french are: Quel-(masc. Con.) Quels-(masc. Plural) Quelle-(femm.) Quelles-(femm. Plural)
I just got this as a "select all correct translations" exercise, and had to choose between "Quel?", "Que?", and "Quoi?". I have to be honest and say that the only reason I correctly guessed "Quoi?" was because I thought of the French knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
"Fetchez la vache."
"Fetchez la vache!"
Obviously not the best source of knowledge about the language, but, hey, it worked this time.