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Qué or cuál: which is which?

My teacher explained que and cual to us, but I still am very confused. What are the differences? Please help!

'What is...?' may be translated as either 'que es?' or 'cual es?' depending on the meaning of the sentence. Generally, 'cual es' is more common, but 'que' is always used when asking for a definition (i.e. when asking 'what does it mean?' 'what is it?', etc.).

¿Qué hora es? What time is it?
¿Qué significa ¨balancear¨? What does ¨balancear¨ mean?
¿Qué raza es tu perro? What breed is your dog?

'Cual' is used in front of es or any other conjugation of ser for all other purposes:

¿Cuál es tu dirección? What is your address?
¿Cuál es el problema? What is the problem?

Compare:

¿Cuál es tu nombre? What is your name?
¿Qué es un nombre? What is a name? (i.e. what is the definition of a name?)
¿Cuál es su novio? Which one is your boyfriend?
¿Qué es su novio? What is your boyfriend? (i.e. what does he do for a living?)

If directly followed by a noun, use que, EXCEPT when translating 'which':

Estoy buscando mi gato.

¿Qué gato?

I am looking for my cat.

What cat? (i.e. you have a cat?)

Estoy buscando mi gato.

¿Cuál gato?

I am looking for my cat.

Which cat? (i.e. of the several cats you have, which one are you looking for?)

NOTE: When one fails to hear a comment in English, the question is "what?" But, in Spanish, the correct word is "Cómo?" Keep in mind that como may not be used to mean 'what' in any other circumstances.

Compare:

When asking the difference or choosing between two or more things (Often translated as 'which one?'):

¿Cuál es la differencia entre ser y estar? What is the difference between ser and estar?
¿Cuál prefieres? Which one do you prefer?
¿Cuál debo elegir? Which one should I choose?

 

Identify the following sentences as impersonal or passive seAlthough capitalization does not count, spelling does!

Please enter your name

1. ¿ es tu dirección? (La repuesta será: Mi dirección es el número de la casa y la ciudad donde vivo)

2.¿ quieres? (Which one do you want?)

3. ¿ quieres ? (What do you want?)

4. ¿ vas a hacer? (What are you going to do?)

 


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