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Complete post:

May

17

2013

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

What's that?, What are those?...

One of our listeners asked: how do you say What are those? in French? We can say this in a number of ways.

First of all, let's imagine a context. You are in a pastry shop. There are pastries (des viennoiseries) at the counter but you don't know what kind they are, exactly. You want to ask the lady at the counter: What are those?

The question form you will need is:

  • ... , qu'est-ce que c'est?

You can formulate your question like this:

  • Ces viennoiseries-là, qu'est-ce que c'est?
    = Those pastries, there, what are they?

... or like this:

  • Qu'est-ce que c'est, ces viennoiseries-là?
    = What are those, those pastries there?

In a less specific context...

Above, we have a specific context: we are talking about pastries. Where the context is not specific, we may meet any of the following question forms:

  • Qu'est-ce que c'est?
  • Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?

Each of these questions has the same meaning and can be used in a singular or plural context. Depending on the context, the English equivalent can be:

  • What's that?
  • What are those?

..., de [quoi] s'agit-il?... yet another possibility

This question form also means What is it?, What are those?, What's this?, etc. Consider the following:

  • Je vois que tu lis. De quel livre s'agit-il?
    = I see you're reading. What book is it?
  • Ces oiseaux que l'on peut voir dans son jardin en hiver, de quel genre d'oiseau s'agit-il?
    = Those birds you see in your garden in winter, what type of bird is it?

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