In indirect questions, qué is placed in front of a noun meaning "what/which [noun]". Have a look at the following examples:
- Forming questions with qué = what
- Forming exclamatory sentences with qué [noun] or qué [adjective]
- Difference between qué and que (with and without an accent)
Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics
Examples and resources
Q&A Forum 1 question, 3 answers
can “cuál” ever be substituted in any of these cases or are there different rules for “cual”?
¡Hola Linda! We understand that using "qué" vs. "cuál" can be confusing for English speakers, and we hope to create a lesson soon about this grammar point.
The general rule says that "qué" is usually translated as "what", while "cuál" is generally translated as "which".
However, this rule cannot always be applied and in some cases this equivalence doesn't work, so let's see how to use both of them when they mean either "what" and/or "which".
The main difference is that "qué" can be followed by a noun or a verb, but "cuál" can only be followed by a verb or the preposition "de".
When the question implies a choice between two or more alternatives and conveys the idea of "selection", you can use the estructure "¿Cuál + verb/preposition?" or "¿Qué + noun?".
-¿Qué teléfono es más caro? --> Which telephone is more expensive?
-¿Cuál de los tres teléfonos es más caro? --> Which of the three telephones is more expensive?
Also, when asking about preferences, both "qué" and "cuál" can be used. "Qué" is generally used when the objects you are asking about are not on your sight and options are not given to you, and "cuál" is used when you have them in your hands or in front of you, or are specific objects.
-¿Qué prefieres, la carne o el pescado? --> What do you prefer, meat or fish?
-¿Cuál prefieres, este o ese? --> Which one do you prefer, this one or that one?
I hope that you can understand a bit better now how to use both of them.