What is the difference between "cuál" and "qué"? | SpanishDict Answers
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3 Vote

Hola a todos,

Tengo una pregunta.
What is the difference between "cuál" and "qué"? Do they both mean "what"?
¿Qué o cuál es la diferencia entre "cuál" y "qué"?
Also what is the usage of them? When should I use "cuál" and when should I use "qué"?

Muchas gracias de antemano,

Marco

  • Posted Nov 1, 2008
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6 Answers

5 Vote

"Qué" is used when any answer is possible. It is used as a pronoun in sentences like "¿Qué quieres'", where any answer is possible, and as an adjective "¿Qué libro quieres'" when the answer can be any of the books (here the choice has been limited to books only).

Used with "ser" it calls for a definition of the subject. Thus, "¿Qué es tu nombre'" (a silly question) must be answered with something like "My name is the word people use to refer to me", and to "¿Qué son las dimensiones de la habitación'" must be answered as "The distance between its walls".

"Cuál" is used to choose among a given number of possible answers. It is used as a pronoun in sentences like "¿Cuál quieres'", when a range of options have been previously given (e.g. I've got three flavours: mint, strawberry and apple. Which one do you want'). In Spain it is not used as an adjective, so we don't say "¿Cuál libro quieres'", but this is perfectly normal in many parts of Latin America.

Used with "ser" it calls for information about the subject, so "¿Cuál es tu nombre'" is answered as "Lazarus", and "¿Cuáles son las dimensiones de la habitación'" is answered as "4 m wide and 5 m long".

2 Vote

Marco said:

"¿Qué es tu nombre'" is the question that asks your nickname so you can answer anything that people use to call or refer to you.

No, it has nothing to do with nicknames. "¿Qué es tu nombre" is an absurd question, because you are asking for a definition of the term "tu nombre" (you are using "ser"), and that can only be answered by saying "the words used to call you". More examples of questions where a definition is asked, and therefore a definition is the right answer:

¿Qué es tu nacionalidad? Una palabra que indica la nación en la que nací.
¿Qué es tu bebida preferida? La bebida que más me gusta.
¿Qué es la matrícula de tu vehículo? Una placa con números y letras que identifica mi vehículo.

And now the "correct" questions with 'cuál':

¿Cuál es tu nacionalidad? Española.
¿Cuál es tu bebida preferida? La cerveza.
¿Cuál es la matrícula de tu vehículo? XZ2004.

lazarus1907 said:

"Cuál" is used to ask the questions with answers that have been given certain choices. For example, there are three books, one is English book, one is Chinese book and the last one is Spanish book. Then the question is "¿Cuál libro quieres'"

But remember that in Spain "¿Cuál libro quieres'" sounds wrong to our ears (even if it is not); we always say "¿Qué libro quieres'", which is considered correct in Latin America as well.

  • From your prior post I understood that "que" in "que libro quieres" is an adjective - the noun, libro. Just quickly -I will go try to find the answer (I'm thinking aloud here): what part of speech is que when used with ser all on its own? - Janice Aug 23, 2009 flag
  • I found "pronoun relativo 1. (sujeto)" - Janice Aug 23, 2009 flag
  • Whoops...I found "pronoun relativo 1. (sujeto) for "qué" ..and in my comments I need that accent, too, I think. I do not think I can use que without the accent on its own with ser. Or? - Janice Aug 23, 2009 flag
  • ...well, I could "define" the word "que" perhaps. - Janice Aug 23, 2009 flag
  • With the accent it's an interrogative pronoun. Without the accent it's a relative pronoun. - samdie Aug 23, 2009 flag
1 Vote

cual is actually which. It sometimes translates as what. ¿Cual es su nombre? what's your name? literally which is your name.

1 Vote

I suggest you seach previous discussions for this one as this question has arisen many times.

Here's a sample discussion:
[url=http://my.spanishdict.com/forum/topic/show'id=1710195%3ATopic%3A389425]http://my.spanishdict.com/forum/topic/show'id=1710195%3ATopic%3A389425[/url]

Oops! Not that discussion. It's about cual and que; not cúal and qué (different parts of speech.)
Steve's omission of the accent mark must have blinded me.

1 Vote

can i understand from this that:
Qué is used to ask about something that has ( a wide list of choices or answers ) like: what do you want',what is wrong',what does it mean'.........ect'''?
and Cuál is used to ask about things that has (a single answer or pointed choices) like: what is your name',defference between (mentioned things)?

lazarus1907 said:

"Qué" is used when any answer is possible. It is used as a pronoun in sentences like "¿Qué quieres'", where any answer is possible, and as an adjective "¿Qué libro quieres'" when the answer can be any of the books (here the choice has been limited to books only).Used with "ser" it calls for a definition of the subject. Thus, "¿Qué es tu nombre'" (a silly question) must be answered with something like "My name is the word people use to refer to me", and to "¿Qué son las dimensiones de la habitación'" must be answered as "The distance between its walls"."Cuál" is used to choose among a given number of possible answers. It is used as a pronoun in sentences like "¿Cuál quieres'", when a range of options have been previously given (e.g. I've got three flavours: mint, strawberry and apple. Which one do you want'). In Spain it is not used as an adjective, so we don't say "¿Cuál libro quieres'", but this is perfectly normal in many parts of Latin America.Used with "ser" it calls for information about the subject, so "¿Cuál es tu nombre'" is answered as "Lazarus", and "¿Cuáles son las dimensiones de la habitación'" is answered as "4 m wide and 5 m long".

>

1 Vote

lazarus1907 said:

"Qué" is used when any answer is possible. It is used as a pronoun in sentences like "¿Qué quieres'", where any answer is possible, and as an adjective "¿Qué libro quieres'" when the answer can be any of the books (here the choice has been limited to books only).Used with "ser" it calls for a definition of the subject. Thus, "¿Qué es tu nombre'" (a silly question) must be answered with something like "My name is the word people use to refer to me", and to "¿Qué son las dimensiones de la habitación'" must be answered as "The distance between its walls"."Cuál" is used to choose among a given number of possible answers. It is used as a pronoun in sentences like "¿Cuál quieres'", when a range of options have been previously given (e.g. I've got three flavours: mint, strawberry and apple. Which one do you want'). In Spain it is not used as an adjective, so we don't say "¿Cuál libro quieres'", but this is perfectly normal in many parts of Latin America.Used with "ser" it calls for information about the subject, so "¿Cuál es tu nombre'" is answered as "Lazarus", and "¿Cuáles son las dimensiones de la habitación'" is answered as "4 m wide and 5 m long".

Thank you, Lazarus for your explanation.
Based on your explanation, my understanding is that "qué" is used to ask the questions with any answers. "¿Qué quieres'" You can answer whatever you want. "¿qué libro quieres'" You can answer any book you want even though the choices have been limited to books only.
"¿Qué es tu nombre'" is the question that asks your nickname so you can answer anything that people use to call or refer to you.
"Cuál" is used to ask the questions with answers that have been given certain choices. For example, there are three books, one is English book, one is Chinese book and the last one is Spanish book. Then the question is "¿Cuál libro quieres'"
"¿Cuál es tu nombre'" is the question that asks your name which was given by your parents when you were born. That is the certain one and you can not answer whatever you want because for example, your name is lazarus, not marco. You can not answer that your name is marco when people ask this question.
I just want to make sure if my understanding is correct.

Thank you so much, lazarus and you are always very helpful.

Marco

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