"Quoi" is, basically, "what" - the interrogative pronoun ( = it stands for a noun about which you're asking). Yet "quoi" becomes "que" when :
- you're asking a question about "what"
AND (very important : )
- when it is the first word of the question.
So let's take a more "natural" question than the one in this example:
- What do you want?
Informal, popular, everyday translation (most used by natives):
- Tu veux quoi?
Formal, literary translation (what you first learn in school):
- Que veux-tu?
In this exercise here, "Tu es quoi?" is totally correct but colloquial French; a "real" question with inversion of verb and subject (as in English) would be "Qu'es-tu?, which is a contracted form of "Que es-tu" (you drop the -e in "que" to avoid vowels collision).
The only exception is the single-word question "What ???", which is "Quoi ???" in French (and not just "Que?", which can't stand alone as a question).
Watch out though, be aware that "que" is not always a form of "quoi". That's why I mentioned interrogative pronoun above. Most of the time, "que" is the equivalent of the relative pronoun "that", "which":
- This is the dress that I want.
- Voici la robe que je veux.
Here you couldn't replace "que" by "quoi", as it's not asking about "what".
What are you? : Tu es quoi? = Quoi es-tu? = Qu'est-ce que tu es? then, Who are you? : Tu es qui? = Qui es-tu? = (?????) Can I use "Qu'est-ce que tu es?" again to express "WHO are you?" or Are there other pronouns to specifically represent 'WHO' or Do I just have to use the two representations only?
My poor brain is going to explode :-(
Uh... yes, it's true. As a native French speaker, I can't think right away of a question that would start directly with "quoi".
- What do you want? = Que veux-tu? (or "tu veux quoi" in more informal, every-day French)
What do you need? = De quoi as-tu besoin? (or "tu as besoin de quoi?"). Here you can use "quoi" because it's used with a preposition ("de"), as "to need something" in French is "avoir besoin DE quelque chose".
What do you say? = Que dis-tu?
- What are you talking ABOUT? = DE quoi parles-tu?
That's 100% correct, and another very good point! ;-)
Yet "Quoi de neuf?" is an expression, not an entire sentence, as there is no verb. Here, "...de neuf" just qualifies the "Quoi?", i.e. "What new?" literally.
So indeed I should've been clearer, and say that "Quoi..." doesn't generally start an entire question, with a proper verb and subject structure (I didn't think of exceptions at this level of learning).
If we go on like this, then a question like "Quoi lui dire?" ("What to tell him?" literally) is correct, just as the more formal "Que lui dire?" is correct.
Whereas "Que vais-je lui dire?" (What am I going to tell him?) can't be replaced, even informally, by "Quoi vais-je lui dire?".
Merci, ElGusso. I admit, I sometimes get confused regarding the usage of comment, quoi, and que. After learning French from books, I shifted to streetspeak and informal usage. So at times I sound like a fifty-year-old French grammarian from the countryside, or a sixteen-year-old rapper in the heart of Paris. Technicalities often elude me. Thanks for the insight. :)
Simply put, "que" is for direct objects and "quoi" is for indirect objects.
Elle sait la bonne réponse.
She knows the correct answer.
"the correct answer" is the object, and it's a direct object because there's no prepositions like à, avec, de before the object.
In a question, you would ask:
What does she know?
She knows the direct object that is "the correct answer".
Tu parles d'un livre.
You're talking about a book.
the book is what you're talking about. It's the object. This time it's indirect because of about, or in the case of the French text, d'
In a question, you ask:
De quoi parles-tu?
What are you talking about?
You are talking about a book.
In conversational French, it's common to just use "quoi" and not use the inverted question format, take for example:
which in conversational French becomes
Elle sait quoi?
Hopefully this helps.
What you say has nothing to do with the sentence being a question: "êtes" is the form of "être" (to be) used with "vous", and only "vous" (music, maestro! : "Only vouuuuuuuuuuuuus...").
"Vous" is the plural form of "tu" (= you) used when you talk to more than one person ("you guys"), or the formal form of "tu" used when you talk to someone you don't know, someone you "respect", etc. ("you Sir", "you Madam"). And even when "vous" refers to one single person (as in "you Sir"), you MUST use "êtes", while with "tu" you always use "es".
Probably that's where your confusion comes from, since in English "tu" and "vous" both means "you":
- tu es drôle (to someone you know, someone younger, etc.) = you are funny
- vous êtes drôle (to someone you don't know, someone older, etc.) = you are funny
- vous êtes drôles (to more than one person, whether you know them or not) = you are funny
But saying "tu êtes quoi?" would be like saying "What are I?" or "what are he?" in English.