What is the difference between Che cosa and Cosa?

In cases like "What am I," the correct translation can be both "Che cosa sono" and "Cosa sono," and I would like to know the difference between them, such as one of them is more formal... IDK..

September 28, 2018


你好 : )

both of them are correct and in general you can translate the interrogative pronoun "what", in direct or indirect questions, with:

  1. Che cosa e.g. Che cosa ne pensi (standard)

  2. Cosa e.g. Cosa ne pensi (abbreviation)

  3. Che e.g. Che ne pensi (abbreviation)

(What do you think about it)

however in your specific sentence to me it sounds better 1 or 2.

Traditionally, until the 19th century only Che cosa and Che were considered acceptable in the standard language, then, when famous writers decided to use Cosa , especially Alessandro Manzoni ispired by the florentine dialect (Tuscany) that had both of the short forms, that word became more general. This practice of using the shorter forms developed because people did not want to repeat the same sound "che cosa", so they preferred "Che" ( among ordinary people ) but also "Cosa" ( among cultured people ); it seems that the use of all three alternatives is already traceable in the 17th century in the "living" language.

I add that each Region of Italy is inclined to an expression rather than another, next to the normal version "Che cosa" ( basically in the North/Sardinia = "cosa", in the center and in the South = "che" ). Anyway, in according to some dictionaries Cosa is the most common expression in the spoken and written language nowadays (standard language). Concluding, I can tell you it depends on the style you want to give to your sentence, certainly Che/Cosa are more immediate rather than Che cosa, that is a little more formal and accurate. It also depends on the sentence, on the context.

September 28, 2018

depends on the region. it seems that che cosa is more formal and that cosa is quite colloquial

September 28, 2018

Thanks, that does answer my question.

September 28, 2018

Che cosa, cosa and che have the same meaning, and are theoretically interchangeable in any case.
Che cosa, being longer, usually sounds slighly more emphatic than the other two, but it can be correctly used in any sentence. Cosa is preferred by northern speakers, and is presently also the form more commonly spoken in standard Italian.
Che is the form more often spoken in central and southern areas, but it can be easily deceptive for a learner (che can also mean "that", and "which"), so for the purpose of DL's exercises you can stick with che cosa and cosa.
However, DL should consider valid any of the three, because all of them are grammatical.

September 28, 2018
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