From "A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian" (Maiden and Robusttelli, 2000, p. 143) "che" and "cosa" and "che cosa" all three mean "what" in English. You see "cosa" more in the north and "che" more in the south, but there's little difference between them.
So you can think of "che cosa" as a single word that means "what" and think of "che" or "cosa" as abbreviations of that. (Che actually has a few restrictions when used alone, but let's not go there.)
I still like to think of it (correctly or otherwise) as literally "what thing," and shortenings of that.
Grazie mille, mio amico.
This has been bothering me for a while. Thank you again!
I think it literally means "what thing is popular'. Please correct me anyone if I'm wrong.
But in Spanish "cosa" means "thing" in Italian both words "che cosa" means "what".
That's because it's incorrect in English. (It's not grammatically or syntactically incorrect, it's just never, ever said.)
unless someone says "this such-and-such thing is popular" and someone else can't hear it very well and says "what thing is popular?" just for clarification.
Okay, if this isn't how you say "What thing is popular", how on earth would you say that?
According to google translate (not the best source to use) "cosa" as a noun means "thing". However, I think "what thing" is apart of "che cosa" and "che cos'è". Thing is omitted because it's already assumed that you're asking about a something. So in essence "che cos'è populare" should really be "what (known or unknown 'thing') is popular"
Of course I could be wrong because my command of the Italian language is between novice and intermediate at best, yet It does make sense though.
How come "(che) cos' e poplare" translates to "what is popular", but on the previous question of translating "what is popular now", I got marked off for "Cos' e (populare ora)" and it told me to use "cosa e"?
"Popolare" is one of those adjectives which are the same for masculine and feminine. The plural is always "popolari":
- il popolare
- la popolare
- i popolari
- le popolari
If you didn't know that, there's another hint in this sentence: "è" is singular, so no doubts about that. The sentence is actually asking "What does the word popolare mean?", so it has no semantic gender either. It's not about a specific thing which could be described with a word having its gender.
In this context, how can you tell if the subject is singular or plural?
popolare applies to singular nouns
è is singular as well
A plural form would be - che cose sono popolari?
That would be "Che cosa vuol dire populare?" There's an old expression "to mean to say" that simply turned into "mean" in English ("What does antidisestablishmentarianism mean to say?" --> "What does antidisestablishmentarianism mean?") but in many other languages (Italian among them), they still use the full "to mean to say" (volere dire).
Another way of saying it "What does popular mean?" would be "Cosa significa populare?" or "Cosa populare significa?" which is related to the English word "signify" and may be more commonly used for inferences from known facts than for meanings of words, though I couldn't say for sure. An example might be: "Mario non vuole giocare con te." "Significa non gli piaccio?" (Translation: "Mario doesn't want to play with you." "Does that mean he doesn't like me?")
I guessed "Is that what is popular" but it was marked wrong. I'm frustrated at having to guess at these sentences.
Take heart. Getting them wrong actually makes them stand out more in your memory.