"What do I read?"
Translation:Que lis-je ?
When asking the question "what....", (when the "what" is the object of the sentence, e.g., I read what?), you use "Que" followed by either the inversion (lis-je) or "est-ce que" + declarative statement. Ex: Que lis-je ? (or) Qu'est-ce que je lis ?
When "Que" is the subject of the sentence, it must be followed by "est-ce qui". See more here: http://french.about.com/od/mistakes/a/what.htm
Quel/quelle is an adjective used in front of a noun or with the verb "être" followed by a noun:
- quel livre lis-tu ? = which book are you reading?
- quel est ton nom ? = what is your name?
Besides, "quel/quelle" refers to a choice between several options.
"what do you read?" is different from "which book do you read?".
If anyone else is confused on how to ask questions in French, look at this website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/standard/french/speaking_writing/asking_questions/revision/1/ It really helped me understand that building a question in French is a very systematic and understandable process that can be condensed into the formula: "Question word + est-ce que + subject + verb + other words". In my opinion, inversion is more difficult than Est-ce que, so I almost always use the latter.
The way I see it, inversion generally translates as "do I/you etc" or "am/are I/you etc". Whereas "Est-ce que......" you can always translate directly and not need inversion.
"When are you going?" "Quand vas-tu?
" When is it that you are going? "Quand est-ce que tu vas?"
Looking at it that way helped me to understand how to construct questions. Hope it helps you.
You cannot have 2 conjugated verbs with only one pronoun ("suis" and "lis").
- I am reading = je lis (there are no continuous tenses in French)
To ask for information, you have several ways of building your question:
What am I reading? =
- Que lis-je ? (formal with inversion Verb-Subject pronoun)
- Qu'est-ce que je lis ? (standard with "qu'est-ce que" = what and no inversion VS)
- Je lis quoi ? (relaxed/in speech, with "quoi" replacing "que" at the end of the question)
As to the apostrophe, I have already answered to that question of yours on a previous thread.
The elided form of "que" is "qu'": "qu'est"
The hyphen appears between the verb and its subject: "est-ce"
If your question starts with "qu'est-ce que", the rest of the question is constructed as a statement: "je lis"
"qu'est-ce que je lis ?"
The formal construction of the same question, with a Verb-Subject inversion is: "que lis-je ?"