How to express quantity, quality and identity (also Che, Cosa and che cosa)


Quanto/Quanta = How much.

Quanti/Quante = How many.


Quale = Which.

Quali = Which one(s).

Che = What.


For people: Chi = Who, Whom.

For people: Quale = Which.

For things: Che, Che cosa, Cosa = What.

For things: Quale = Which.

  • Che? Cosa? Che Cosa?

There is little difference in meaning or register between these three terms. Cosa is the more common form in Tuscany and northern Italy (what DL teaches), and che is used more in the south. Che is syntactically different from cosa and che cosa, in that it must immediately precede a verb (except that clitic pronouns may come between it and the verb).

May 8, 2018


I would add this:

Qual è = Which is it?
This has extremely common usage here on Duolingo, but we are normally permitted to type in "What", and be marked correctly, since that is a more acceptable practice from an English point of view.

  • Qual è il prezzo?

In English we would ask, "What is the price?" and everyone would understand that we are expecting a numerical answer. $12, say.
In Italian we have to use "which price is it?", because there is a real distinction between "what" and "which".
"Which" implies options, while "what" usually refers to more of a definition.
That's why they have cos'è, as well, for "what is it?".

Cos'è il prezzo? = What is it, "the price"?
"The price is the amount of money that you pay for something."
Qual è il prezzo? = Which (of all prices) is the price?
"The price is $12."

A lot of it has to do with context, which Duolingo lacks.
If you are in a room with one person and you see them reading a book then you could ask a different question than you would if it was a general question (on a website, for instance):

  • Che libro stai leggendo? - What (is that) book you are reading?
  • Quale libro stai leggendo? - What (which) book are you reading?
  • Qual è il tuo libro preferito? - Which (what) is your favorite book?

che = What but it very often means "That", instead:

  • Sai che oggi è il mio compleanno? - Do you know that today is my birthday?
  • Penso che tu abbia ragione - I think that you are right.

You will hardly ever, on Duolingo at least, see "Che cosa" together; they normally (as mentioned) use "cosa" on its own.

May 9, 2018

Excellent post!

Speaking of prices, Qual è il prezzo? is not wrong, but it is much more common to ask:

  • Quanto costa?

or more colloquially

  • Quanto viene?

In some cases this might sound a little abrupt, so a better way to ask would be:

  • Posso sapere il prezzo di...?

  • Può dirmi il prezzo di...?

May 11, 2018

very helpful!

May 8, 2018

grazie, this is quite helpful.

May 9, 2018
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