How to ask What Is This in French [+15 Examples]

what is this in French

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In this grammar lesson you will learn how to ask what is this in French.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • the three methods for asking what is this in French
  • the least formal method on how to ask what is this in French
  • the medium formal method on how to ask what is this in French
  • the most formal method on how to ask what is this in French
  • sentences which show how to ask a question in French
  • how you can quiz yourself on how to ask what is this in French
  • how to download Anki files for what is this in French

Please refer to the French A1 Curriculum to get a better overview of French grammar, if you are curious about this fits in French A1.

By the end of the lesson you will know all about how to ask what is this in French!

Table of Contents

Three Ways to ask What is This in French

In this lesson I will teach you three methods for how to ask “what is this” in French.

The three methods will range from a little formality to a lot.

I have put them in a table for you.

You can always come back to this if you’d like to have an overview.

What is this?What is + (article) + (thing)?
Least FormalC’est quoi?C’est quoi + (article) + (chose)?
Medium FormalQu’est-ce que c’est?Qu’est-ce que c’est + (article) + (chose)?
Most FormalQu’est-ce que cela?Qu’est-ce que + (article) + (chose)?

Least Formal Method for asking ” what is this?”

The most easy and the most informal method to ask what something is:

  • C’est quoi? = What is it? / What is that? / What is this?

However, you’d rarely just say “what is it?”

In real situations, you’d be referring to something.

So imagine that you heard the words ” une maison“.

You don’t know what it is, so you ask about it:

C’est quoi une maison ?

What is a house?

You would thus use the construction:

c’est quoi + (article) + (chose) = what is it + (article) + (thing)

Let’s go over some more examples:

C’est quoi une poire ?

What is a pear?

C’est quoi un ananas ?

What is a pineapple?

C’est quoi le vrai problème ?

What’s the real issue here?

Generally this method is used amongst friends as it is quite informal

Medium Formal Method for asking ” what is this?”

A medium formal method to ask what something is the following:

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est ? = What is it? / What is that? / What is this?

You may have noticed that I have highlighted ce in red.

This is because you don’t pronounce this in French, you only write it.

I have highlighted it in all of the examples here, so you don’t forget it.

Just as in the previous chapter, it is unlikely that you would just use this phrase.

Probably you will hear an unknown phrase, and then you will ask a question with that unknown phrase included.

So, imagine that you heard the phrase “un velo“, and you want to know what that is.

This is what you’d ask:

Qu’est-ce que c’est un vélo?

What is a bicycle?

You would thus use the construction:

  • qu’est-ce que c’est + (article) + (chose) = what is + (article) + (thing)

Let’s go over some more examples:

Qu’est-ce que c’est le bonheur ?

What is happiness?

Qu’est-ce que c’est le savoir ?

What is knowledge?

Qu’est-ce que c’est une banane ?

What is a banana?

Generally this method can be used in any situation, both formal and informal.

Most Formal Method for asking ” what is this?”

The most formal method for asking what something is would be the following:

  • Qu’est-ce que cela ? = What is this? / What is that?

Even though it is shorter it is more formal.

You may have noticed that I have highlighted ce in red.

This is because you don’t pronounce this in French, you only write it.

I have highlighted it in all of the examples here, so you don’t forget it.

In real situations, you’d be referring to something.

You’d rarely just say “what is it?”

Imagine that you want an update regarding something, this is what you’d ask:

Qu’est-ce que la situation maintenant?

What’s the situation now?

You would thus use the construction:

  • qu’est-ce que + (article) + (chose) = what is + (article) + (thing)

Let’s go over some more examples:

Qu’est-ce qu‘un vrai ami?

What is a real friend?

Qu’est-ce qu‘une calculatrice ?

What is a calculator?

Qu’est-ce que la vérité ?

What is the truth?

This method would often be used in formal environments.

Example Sentences with What is This in French

The final section of this lesson on how to ask what is this in French is about seeing the questions in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding on asking what is this in French through examples.

C’est quoi?

What is it? / What is that? / What is this?

C’est quoi une maison ?

What is a house?

C’est quoi une poire ?

What is a pear?

C’est quoi un ananas ?

What is a pineapple?

C’est quoi le vrai problème ?

What’s the real issue here?

Qu’est-ce que c’est ?

What is it? / What is that? / What is this?

Qu’est-ce que c’est un vélo?

What is a bycicle?

Qu’est-ce que c’est le bonheur ?

What is happiness?

Qu’est-ce que c’est le savoir ?

What is knowledge?

Qu’est-ce que c’est une banane ?

What is a banana?

Qu’est-ce que cela ?

What is this? / What is that?

Qu’est-ce que la situation maintenant?

What’s the situation now?

Qu’est-ce qu‘un vrai ami?

What is a real friend?

Qu’est-ce qu‘une calculatrice ?

What is a calculator?

Qu’est-ce que la vérité ?

What is the truth?

Quiz Yourself on How to ask What Is This in French

It’s not enough just to read the article on this lesson.

You should test your knowledge to see if you really understood everything, and to be able to repeat the material.

It is also for this reason that it is recommended to download the Anki Decks and do them.

At the end of every lesson you can do a small test.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter. It is up to you to give the correct answer.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want.

Anki File for How to ask What Is This in French

It is important to do the Anki excercises for this lesson, so that you can remember what you just studied.

By downloading the Anki File for French A1 you can practice every French A1 lesson that is on Language Atlas.

At this moment the Anki File for this lesson doesn’t exist yet. However, in due time this will be available on Language Atlas.

If you don’t know why you should use Anki, or don’t know how to use Anki or merge Anki files please click here.

Anki can be downloaded from here.

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