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  5. "¿Cuál es el problema?"

"¿Cuál es el problema?"

Translation:What's the matter?

May 16, 2018

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How do you know to use "cual" or "que"?


In general, use qué when asking for a definition, or when there are few or no restrictions on what the answer might be. (¿Qué onda? What's up?)

Use cuál when there's a restricted pool of possible answers to choose from. (¿Cuál es tu numero? What's your number?)

This also includes the sense of cuál meaning "which". (¿Cuáles de los gatos son tuyos? Which of the cats are yours?)

I hope this helps.


I think it would be more helpful to restrict it just to this type of questions:

"¿Qué es...?" is used if you want a definition.
"¿Cuál es...?" is used if you want an answer.

  • ¿Qué es un problema? - What is a problem?
  • ¿Cuál es el problema? - What is the problem?

When you start using a different verb or other words after cuál or qué, the meanings change accordingly


That was really helpful, thanks!


Thanks! I was just wondering this myself!


couldn't "¿Qué es el problema?" translate as "What is the problem like?"


No, not particularly. That would be "¿Cómo es el problema?"


I thought that was how is the problem


Luke, those sentences have the same meaning in this case.


So then it should be '¿Cuál onda?' and not '¿Qué onda?'?


Well, this answer suits my brain. Thanks haha!


Good answer, but there are few or no restrictions on what the problem could be.


maybe... maybe not. No context is given here.


Thanks! Good explanation. I appreciate how you share your knowledge.


Thanks a lot. That was a very good answer.

[deactivated user]

    what is the difference between que and como


    First, realize that there is a difference between "que" and "qué". "Qué" means "what". "Que" means "that," and it is used to begin a subordinate clause.

    Example: ¿Pensás que habrá algunos insectos? Do you think that there will be any insects.

    Second, realize that there is a difference between "cómo" and "como". "Como" means "like", "as", "similar to", or "such as".
    "Cómo" means "how" or "why", or "come again" (what did you say?, come again). ("¿Cómo? Yo te no oigo," What? I don't hear you.)

    Now the difference between "qué" and "cómo."

    Both "qué" and "cómo" are "question words" aka "interrogatives" (these specifically are "interrogative pronouns".

    "Que" (that) is a relative pronoun, or a conjunction.

    "Cómo", as an interrogative, means "how" or "why".


    Why do people use Que in situations like "Que bonita" or "Que chevere"?


    Qué is just used as an interjection, like you would use "how" in those situations in English: "How beautiful" or "How great".


    I thought it was ¿Qué tal? For what's up?


    Iceeblaze, there are many of those colloquial expressions.


    I was raised and brought up saying cuál as which and not what.. I can get by but es just strange.


    Leona, cuál can translate as "what" or "which", and qué can translate as "what", "which" or "how". It all depends on the context of the sentence.


    Excellent answer!!!


    Thanks. Didn't help me a lot though. It says use 'que' for a general broad understanding and use 'cual' for a specific answer from amongst a 'family' or 'subset' of choices. However, when appropriately saying 'Cual es tu nombre', one's name doesn't have a 'family' or 'subset' so the rule doesn't make sense. A name literally can be anything. There are also many examples of using 'que'' when asking for a specific answer. Perhaps the most helpful answer might be what RyagonIV says above.


    I found this link to be extremely helpful. Thanks for the link.


    My college professor taught us that que is what and cual is which


    Those are just the literal translations. I suggest you read the other comments in this forum.


    Why is "el" being used with problema?


    Several words that end in -ma (and come from Greek) are masculine: el problema, el poema, el idioma, el drama, el trauma, el programa, el tema, el sistema, el clima, and many more.


    So, we have to memorize all the male words ending in a?


    Jim, yes, you'll have to.


    Thank you, RyagonIV

    [deactivated user]

      I think ur right. but in some cases like "el aula" el is used even though the word is feminine and u would say las aulas.


      This happens when the word starts with the letter A; the reason is that two letters A next to each other would be difficult to pronounce. I think it's similar to the Spanish prepositions - you can't say "de el", it's always "del".


      That happens only if the beginning 'a' of the noun is stressed. So you have "el aula" and "el agua", but it's still "la agente" or "la arena".


      Ramon, Spanish is challenging, but so are all Romance languages. Keep practicing. :)


      Tambien, "el agua"


      But then "lima" is feminine lol


      'problema' is one of those exeptions in spanish where even though it ends with an 'a', it is still a masculine word.


      Cant you say problem insted of matter?


      Shouldn't "which is the problem" be accepted?


      It's not a likely sentence, but sure, it's a possible translation.

      "Which is the problem, the food industry or your eating habits?"


      "What is the problem" is an open-ended question, with many possible answers. "Which is the problem" assumes a limited number of answers. This distinction is the same in Spanish.

      So, NO, it should not be accepted.

      Note that RagonIV gave context, and correctly used "which."


      I'm not sure what you mean by "This distinction is the same in Spanish." "¿Cuál es el problema?" is the only way this sentence can be expressed, and, depending on context, it can translate to both "What is the problem?" and "Which (one) is the problem?"


      As you say, "depending on context." Which is my point.


      Which is the problem would be refering to a object


      Not necessarily.

      Which idea is the problem. Qué idea es el problema



      If there is a DL prize for patience, it should go to RyagonIV. Felicitaciones al buda de DL. '))


      There must be at least 20 instances of one person asking why el problema and not la problema and another person explaining why. We might want to start politely and gently reminding people that they should read what's already posted to avoid asking questions that have already been answered.


      This is a sentence that can be very useful.


      If you want somebody to bore you to tears with the saga of their ingrowing toenail.


      I have photos, would you like to see


      Can you say what is your problem?


      Not as a translation here, since there is no indication whom or what the problem is associated with. But in Spanish you can easily say "¿Cuál es tu problema?"


      Yes. I translated it to "What is your problem?" and Duo marked it correct. 3-6-2019


      Why is it "el problema" and not "la problema" or "el problemo"?


      Problema is a noun that originated in Ancient Greek, where it was of neutral gender. While transferring to Spanish, it kept its form, but all neutral nouns became masculine.

      "Problemo" is not a Spanish word, even if media wants you to believe that. :)


      'problema' is one of those exeptions in spanish where even though it ends with an 'a', it is still a masculine word.


      I wrote "what is the problem?" and it marked it wrong because I didn't use the contraction of what's -_-


      That is odd; I wrote "What is the problem?" and it was accepted properly Nov.8, 2018. Perhaps something else was misspelled, or "the problem" has been corrected. ;-)


      You should report it.


      How to remember the Spanish of what, which, who, when? Any shortcut trick for remembering these?


      Hmm, let's see.

      Cuánto (how many) describes the cuantity.
      Cuál (which/what) describes the cuality.

      Quién (who) asks for the Queen and all her subjects.
      Qué (what) is for Quéstions in general.
      Cómo (how) is a bit like "How come?"
      And for cuándo I only have this classic.

      Also remember that 'qu' can only precede 'e' and 'i' in Spanish. For all other vowels you have to use 'c' or 'cu'.


      I did put 'el probleme' as got confused about the m/f thing and it was accepted. After reading through the posts i know realise it is male and words ending ma are from the Greek language and are male. Thank you for the explanation


      The problema sounds as though they're saying 'troblema' Is it meant to be pronounced this way or is this a fault in the audio?


      I can only listen to the woman, and she pronounces it well.

      The issue might be that microphones are sometimes a bit odd with picking up plosive sounds (p, t, k), so they might all sound the same in a recording.


      I think it's just which voice is comfortable for you. It's easier for me to undersfand the male voice. Also, the sound is more clear on some lessns than others.


      Wouldn't this sentence translate to "What is the problem"?


      That is also a correct translation.


      Why is it 'es' and not 'esta'?


      You're aksing about an identity here, about the nature of the problem. Identities use the verb ser, not estar.


      Why is "What is the problem." wrong and"What's the problem". right?


      Neither is wrong.


      Yo entiendo ahora finalmente! :) I get using cual vs que here. Que is used more for asking directly about the object (i.e. What car, what pet, etc.) where as cual seems to be used more in a longer sentence (i.e. what is the problem, what is your email address, etc.)


      The woman voice says clearly el problema!!!!


      That's what it's supposed to sound like.


      God, explaining spanish is just as confusing and inconsistent as english!


      "Problem" should be an option for the English translation as in "what's the problem?"


      Problema is pronounced with a silent b?


      Why is it El problema and not La problema


      This has already been answered several times. Take a look at the rest of the thread. :-)

      Friendly reminder to all: on this forum or on any similar forum, you should look over the discussion and see if your question has already been answered. If you ask a question that's already been asked and answered many times, you're just adding to the noise. I just did a quick skim of this thread and counted 32 other instances of people asking the same question. Many had good answers as replies, and many also had reminders to look at the rest of the thread.


      if problema has an a at the end why is it 'el' ?


      Pls see the mny great answrs to ur qstn above in this thread. :-)


      Sometimes, I think we're being trolled. ;-)


      Why is it "el problema" and not "la problema" since problema ends in an A?


      Pls see the many great answrs to this above in this thread. :-)


      Problema ends with 'a' so shouldn't it take la problema


      Pls see the many great answrs to this above in this thread.


      Why use el before problema is female word?


      Sometimes I wonder if I have other version of Duolingo and other people just don't see the comments, or maybe I'm just hallucinating and all those comments asking the very same thing don't exist?...

      Problema is not a feminine (aka 'female') word. It's masculine. It just ends with a, like el mapa or el día. If you want more details, please check one of the other comments - but beware, you will need to dig through a thousand 'why it's el' comments first before you find the original ones.


      Why is it el problema and not la problema?


      Please take a look at the rest of the thread.

      Friendly reminder to all: it's a good habit to do a quick scan of a thread to see if your question is already asked and answered.


      I completely misheard it and thought it said 'Juan es el problema'.


      Haha, poor Juan :D


      There are so many translations for "what" me español like I can not keep up. comprende?


      Typed in “which is the problem" and it was accepted.


      Why is : What is the problem incorrect?


      Why is: ‘What is the problem’. Incorrect.


      Direct translation is 'What's the problem?' However, this is not accepted?


      Duolingo generally has issues with recognising contractions that are not with a personal pronoun. It can recognise "he's", but not "what's" or "where's" or similar.


      why is "What is the problem?" wrong?


      El problema es Maria.


      Are ALL words ending in "ma" considered masculine?


      Ken, no, that's not the case. Most nouns ending with '-ma' are feminine, like pluma (feather), dama (lady), alma (soul) or palma (palm, both the tree and the part of your hand). You really have to learn which of the '-ma' nouns are masculine.


      Why is it "el problema" instead of "la problema"?


      Because 'problema' is a masculine noun, it requires the masculine article 'el'. While 'problema' ends in 'a', it does not follow the usual feminine treatment of most Spanish words ending in 'a'. It is one of the exceptions. The reason for this is that it inherited its gender from the Greek word for problem, which was masculine and is where problema comes from in Spanish.


      Jerry, small correction: these words were neuter in Ancient Greek. They were adopted by Latin, where they remained neuter, and when Spanish developed, neuter nouns were folded into the masculine gender.


      DL's dictionary is the only one that I found that includes "matter" as a definition for problema. Is this preferred answer really an appropriate translation?


      John, sure, it's fine. "Problem", "issue" or "matter" are all synonymous in this meaning.


      i said what is the problem!!!! means the same i think!!!!


      Why not. What is the problem


      Steve, "What is the problem?" is also a good translation.


      Ryagon, since high school Spanish I've always wondered why 'Cual' also means 'What'. I don't expect to change the Spanish language, but I don't understand why it sometimes means 'what' when it normally is supposed to mean 'which'. To me - a native English speaker - 'which' and 'what' are completely different words, but it appears that in Spanish - if not also in many of the romantic languages - they can mean the same thing? Is it just that 'Qual' is conditional depending on the need? And...if it is conditional, why not just use 'What', or rather 'Que"? Using this sentence as a specific example, there is no choice for the answer (i.e. What is the problem), and Cual implies there is a choice (e.g. which of these two colors do you like). Instead this is an open ended question (i.e. no choice). Do you have any insights why Cual is still used this way?


      Jerry, the distinction between "which" and "what" in English is pretty simple: "which" is used if you're choosing something from a specific list, and "what" is used for more open-ended replies. "What is your favourite animal?" versus "Which (of these animals) do you like the most?"

      Spanish makes a different distinction between qué and cuál that doesn't have anything to do with lists, at least not that directly. I'm not entirely sure if there is one single thing that distinguishes all the qués from the cuáls (maybe I'll find that out while writing this comment). But for learning purposes I think it's the most convenient to look at the general form of the questions:

      ¿Qué es ...? - If qué is followed by a form of the verb ser, we're looking for a more general definition or explanation. For example:

      • ¿Qué es una tortilla? - What is a tortilla?
      • ¿Qué fue eso? - What was that?

      ¿Cuál es ...? - When cuál is followed by a form of ser, we want a specific answer pertaining a specific object:

      • ¿Cuál es tu dirección? - What is your address?
      • ¿Cuáles serán las mejores opciones? - What will the best options be?

      ¿Qué hace ...? - If qué is followed by any verb other than ser, it will translate as "what" in English, asking for an answer without being restricted to a specific list of options:

      • ¿Qué quieres comprar? - What do you want to buy?
      • ¿Qué ven tus ojos de elfo? - What do your elf eyes see?

      ¿Cuál hace ...? - Similarly, if cuál is followed by a verb other than ser, it will translate as "which" in English, referring to a specific choice:

      • ¿Cuál quieres comprar? - Which one do you want to buy?
      • ¿Pero cuál tiene el veneno? - But which one contains the poison?

      ¿Qué objeto ...? - If you want to say "which [thing]" or "what [thing]", you should use qué:

      • ¿Qué animal hace este sonido? - Which animal makes this sound?
      • ¿Qué color te gustaría? - What colour would you like?

      (You can also find cuál in this meaning, especially in parts of Latin America, but that's often regarded as informal.)

      ¿Qué tan bueno ...? - The question word qué can also be used together with tan and an adjective to ask about the degree of some quality, i.e. "how [adjective]" something is:

      • ¿Qué tan alta eres? - How tall are you?
      • ¿Qué tan lejos está la escuela? - How far away is the school?

      You can read this things in a bit more detail in this scrumptious article as well.

      In summary, cuál seems to be used if you can pinpoint or identify a specific thing you're talking about, and it is only used as a pronoun, i.e. it must be directly followed by a verb. Qué has a more general application.


      Wow! I'm going to have to keep referring to this and will read the article too. Thank you!


      Why is "problema" which ends in "a" a masculine word?


      Dan, problema started as a neutral noun in Ancient Greek. That was shipped over to Latin, keeping its neutral gender, and when Spanish developed, all neutral nouns from Latin became masculine in Spanish.


      Thank you < I remember Latin had 4 kinds of nouns


      Why is it El problema and not La problema?


      Kay, problema is a masculine noun, so it uses the masculine article el.


      I put "What is the problem" and it was marked wrong looking for "What is the matter?" How does one know the difference?


      Steve, "What is the problem?" is a fine translation here. Please report it if it's not accepted.


      I have reported the same problem....


      Isn't it supposed to be: 'What's the problem?' ?


      Itsseno, that is also an appropriate translation.


      Why is it el than la? I thought if the 2nd word ends with "a" It's la-- And if it ends with o-- its el


      Kimberly, that's true for most cases, but there are exceptions. Problema is a masculine noun, so it takes the article el.


      Why does problema end with an /a/, but for 'the', we use 'el' and not 'la' ?


      Kari, problema is a masculine noun (despite ending with 'a') and thus needs the masculine article el.


      You have incredible patience Ryagon. How many times have you answered the same answer for so many in just this thread. Thank you!


      Why el problema and not la problema?


      Becki, why are you not reading the other comments? :(

      Problema is a masculine noun, so it uses the masculine article el.


      If problema means problem, matter, issue why is the sentence "What is the problem incorrect "?


      Any chance you might've translated when you should've transcribed?


      'What is the problem" and "What is the matter" are both acceptable


      Is " Cual el problema es" also correct?


      Tom, no, that doesn't make sense.


      I thought cual was “which” and Que was “what”


      Read RaygonV explanation above, which starts "Jerry, the distinction between "which" and "what" in English is pretty simple: "which" is used if you're choosing something from a specific list, and "what" is used for more open-ended replies. "What is your favourite animal?" versus "Which (of these animals) do you like the most?"

      Spanish makes a different distinction between qué and cuál that doesn't ... "


      What is the different distinction?


      Distinction = a difference or contrast between similar things. In this case the distinction between 'what' and 'which' in English versus 'Que' and 'Cual' in Spanish. Specifically, 'what' is not always translated to 'que' in Spanish and doing so will sometimes leave the Spanish listener a little confused.


      Why would you say what is the matter when problema is problem? Would it be acceptable to say what is the problem??


      both are perfectly acceptable translations.


      Why el problema? Not la problema or el problema?


      This question has been asked and answered many times on this discussion thread.

      All: it's a good habit to check if your question is already answered before asking it again for potentially the 10th or 20th time.


      Why isn't "el problema" written as "el problemo" or "la problema"?


      You should read some of the other posts in the thread. I think this might already be answered. :-)


      Why el problema and not la problema?


      This has already been answered a few times. Take a look at the rest of the thread. :-)


      Problema: problem the matter???? No


      Not sure what your question is. Both 'what is the problem' and 'what is the matter' are great translations.


      What is his problem ? Isn't it right?


      No - 'his problem' would be 'su problema' :)


      Why is it el problema and not la


      Pls see the mny great answrs to ur qstn above in this thread. :-)


      Why not "la" problema


      This has already been answered a few times. Take a look at the rest of the thread. :-)


      Would "What's wrong?" translate differently? It was not accepted even though to an American "What's the matter?", "What's wrong?", and "What's the problem" are unequivocally the same question. Is it just an overlooked colloquialism?


      Why isn't it la problema?


      Why isn't it "la problema"?


      This has already been answered several times. Take a look at the rest of the thread. :-)


      "What is the matter"... Why is it not, "what is the problem"


      Both are perfectly acceptable answers. You prob got something else wrong like a small misspelling.


      Why was 'what is the matter?' pinged as,wrong?


      'What is the matter' is perfectly correct. You prob got something else wrong - prob a small misspelling.


      "What is the matter?" What is the problem? (No pun intended)


      Pls see the many great answrs to this above in this thread.


      why is it not Cual esta la problema


      Is problema fem? I've been using una problema. If so, why is the question '?Cuál es el problema?'


      Sorry to bring it to you, but you were using it wrong then :) problema is masculine - as you can see if you read one of a hundred comments in this threat asking the very same question


      Yes, i found the thread and realised my mistake


      What is the problem, should be acceptable


      I translated this as "What's wrong?" and it didn't accept that. Seems like it should have been accepted.

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