Che, (che) cosa, quale

We can use che (what), (che) cosa (what) and quale (which) to ask questions.

Che ora è?

What time is it?

Che cosa fai stasera?

What are you doing this evening?

Qual è il tuo nome?

What (or more literally, “which”) is your name?

Before a noun, when asking to identify something or someone, we can use:

  • Che (what).

Che giorno è oggi? 

What day is it today?

  • Quale (singular) / quali (plural), both meaning “which”. Note that in Italian, we use quale/quali in some places where we would use “what” in English, as it is seen as identifying one out of many possible options.

Quale libro stai leggendo?

What (or more literally, “which”) book are you reading?

Before a verb, we use:

  • Che, che cosa or cosa (all meaning “what”) to ask someone to make a choice in general terms or to define something.

(Che) cosa vuoi mangiare?

What do you want to eat?

(Che) cos’è un cellulare? – Un cellulare è un telefono portatile.

–What is a cell phone? –A cell phone is a portable phone.

  • Quale/qual/quali (which) to ask someone to choose from more than one item or to identify an item/items.

Ho il tè verde e il tè nero, quale preferisci

I have green tea and black tea, which do you prefer?

Before a preposition, we use quale/quali (which):

Quale di queste valigie è la tua? 

Which of these suitcases is yours?

Notes:

  • Before the words ora (time), giorno (day) and anno (year), we only use che, not quale.

Che ora è?

What time is it?

In che anno siamo andati a Parigi?

What/which year did we go to Paris?

  • We use (che) cos' (what) before a word that begins with a vowel or with h-, and qual (which) with the verb essere (to be) for the conjugations that begin with e-.

Che cos'ha oggi? 

What's wrong with him/her today? (literally “What does he/she have today?”)

Qual è il tuo portafoglio? 

Which one is your wallet?


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