Interrogative Adjectives

Adjectifs interrogatifs

When asking someone to make a choice between two or more things, you need the interrogative adjective quel, meaning "which" or "what."

Par exemple…

Quel film veux-tu voir ? Which movie do you want to see?
Quelle ville est plus jolie : Annecy ou Besançon ? Which city is prettier: Annecy or Besançon?

Characteristics of interrogative adjectives

  1. Used in place of an article, not with one
  2. Placed directly in front of a noun
  3. Must agree with the noun in gender and number
  4. Are identical to French exclamative adjectives
  5. Quel + noun can be replaced by lequel

French interrogative adjectives

 Singular Plural
Masculine quel quels
Feminine quelle quelles

  All four words are pronounced identically in front of consonants: the s in the plural forms is silent. In front of a vowel or mute h, a liaison is required.

Asking questions

You can ask questions with either est-ce que or inversion.

Par exemple…

Quel film est-ce que tu préfères ?
Quel film préfères-tu?
  Which movie do you prefer?
Quels livres est-ce qu’elle doit acheter ?
Quels livres doit-elle acheter ?
  What books does she need to buy?

Informally, you can put quel and the noun at the end of the question:

Tu préfères quel film ?   You prefer which movie?
Elle doit acheter quels livres ?   She needs to buy what books?

When asking a question with a verb that needs a preposition, the preposition precedes quel.

Par exemple…

À quel voyage est-ce que tu penses ?
À quel voyage penses-tu ?
  Which trip are you thinking about?
Sur quelle table est-ce que tu as mis ton sac ?
Sur quelle table as-tu mis ton sac ?
  Which table did you leave your bag on?

Quel + être

  • Quel est … ? means "what is … ?"
  • Quels sont … ? means "what are … ?"

Par exemple…

Quelle est la solution ?   What’s the solution?
Quels sont les cours les plus intéressants?   What are the most interesting classes?

Set expressions

Quelle heure est-il ? What time is it? telling time
Quelle est la date? What’s the date? dates
Quel jour sommes-nous / est-il ? What day is it? days

Beyond questions

Despite the name, the interrogative adjective quel is not limited to questions.

Par exemple…

Je ne sais pas quelle chemise acheter.   I don’t know which shirt to buy.
Il ne m’a pas dit à quelle heure il va arriver.   He didn’t tell me what time he’s arriving.

To say "which one?" you need the interrogative pronoun lequel.

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French interrogative adjectives
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2 Responses

  1. Victor 25 July 2018 / 0:09

    For the example “Quel film veux-tu voir ?”, doesn’t this mix the formal syntax with the informal pronouns? I would expect this question using inversion syntax to be more like “Quel film voulez-vous voir ?”. Please correct me if I’m mistaken, thanks.

    By the way, I forgot to mention in my previous 3 comments recently, but thanks for these web pages, they’re an excellent resource for French language learners, and I’ve found them very useful. Merci beaucoup!

    • lkl 6 August 2018 / 10:25

      Bonjour Victor,

      The use of vous does not automatically mean “formal” – it can also be used as a sign of respect. A perfect example of this is an elderly person talking to a young child. The elderly person will certainly use tu because of the child’s age, but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily use informal language to go with it. They can show respect by using formal structures such as inversion.

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