How to ask What is that? in Spanish using qué

If we don't know what something is and want to ask for its definition, we use the simple question:

¿Qué es? (What is it?)

¿Qué es un/una...?  (What is a...)

¿Qué es el/la...? (What is the...)

or

¿Qué es eso? (What is that?)

For example, if someone says: "Me gusta mucho La Sagrada Familia de Barcelona." (I really like "La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona") and you've never heard of "La Sagrada Familia", you can ask:

 
¿Qué es "La Sagrada Familia"?What is "La Sagrada Familia"?

As an answer to your question you will have a reply describing what that specific thing is, for example:

"La Sagrada Familia es un monumento famoso de Barcelona."

(La Sagrada Familia is a famous monument in Barcelona.")

Other examples:

 "Necesito un bolígrafo." (I need a pen.)

¿Qué es "un bolígrafo"?What is "un bolígrafo"?

"Quiero un café con leche." (I want a white coffee. Lit: a coffee with milk.)

¿Qué es "un café con leche"?What is "un café con leche"?

 "Hay una iglesia pequeña allí." (There is a small church there.)

¿Qué es "una iglesia"?What is "una iglesia"?

¿"Una iglesia"? ¿Qué es eso?¿"Una iglesia"? What is that?

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

¿"Una iglesia"? ¿Qué es eso?¿"Una iglesia"? What is that?
¿Qué es "una iglesia"?What is "una iglesia"?
¿Qué es "un café con leche"?What is "un café con leche"?
¿Qué es "La Sagrada Familia"?What is "La Sagrada Familia"?
¿Qué es "un bolígrafo"?What is "un bolígrafo"?

Q&A Forum 1 question, 1 answer

KyleA0Kwiziq community member

Proper v common

"Cuál es" works just fine in Mexico to ask "what is". Just because you haven't introduced it in the lesson yet shouldn't make it wrong. The problem with learning formal speech is that nobody talks like this in every day Life. People don't speak proper English in America, and they don't in Latin America either. The same with "me llamó" v "llamó" In Mexico they don't always say me llamó José, just llamó José. Both are right, they know what I'm saying. I want to learn both proper and common speech. Just learning the proper leads to a lot of confusion when you get to where you're going. Nobody talks completely proper, in fact English is so infused with Spanish, they have many made up spanglish words. When you go into a local neighborhood if you speak proper they don't know what you're saying. Really! No one says como se llama usted, me llamo José. They just stare at you like you're a snob. 

Lo siento por la novela

Asked 1 month ago
InmaKwiziq team member

Hola Kyle

Thanks for your comment. Well, in Kwiziq we like to teach Spanish following the "accepted" grammar rules. I think this is the aim of any teaching language site, to be honest. We want our students to write and speak good Spanish. We consider the more formal and the more colloquial expressions as long as they are grammatically correct. This is what we encourage our students to learn, and then, of course, if you are in Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Argentina... it doesn't matter where, the students are going to hear different versions to what they've been taught and they'll realise there is another way to say it, sometimes correctly, sometimes not, but it is also good to ask why it is said that other way and be curious, of course. But still, this is something that, if it is not correct, we won't be very inclined to encourage to use.

Un saludo

Inma

Proper v common

"Cuál es" works just fine in Mexico to ask "what is". Just because you haven't introduced it in the lesson yet shouldn't make it wrong. The problem with learning formal speech is that nobody talks like this in every day Life. People don't speak proper English in America, and they don't in Latin America either. The same with "me llamó" v "llamó" In Mexico they don't always say me llamó José, just llamó José. Both are right, they know what I'm saying. I want to learn both proper and common speech. Just learning the proper leads to a lot of confusion when you get to where you're going. Nobody talks completely proper, in fact English is so infused with Spanish, they have many made up spanglish words. When you go into a local neighborhood if you speak proper they don't know what you're saying. Really! No one says como se llama usted, me llamo José. They just stare at you like you're a snob. 

Lo siento por la novela

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