All about the French phrase "C'est quoi"

Get prepared to discover everything you ever wanted to know about the basic French sentence “C’est quoi”.

This include a full explanation of what it is and how to use it in a conversation with an audio example. And because we want you to make progress in French, we also sprinkled some super useful stuff like dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio, synonyms and more!

Oh and in case you are interested, you can find more of these sentences guides on this page and the directory of all our French words guides on this page. Enjoy!

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French to English translation

How to pronounce?

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does c'est quoi ? mean?


The literal meaning is:

  • C’est → It is
  • Quoi → What

“C’est quoi ?” is the simplest and most widely used way to say “What is that?” in French.

Mostly because the other way to say it: “Qu’est-ce que c’est ?” which is (sadly) popular for being impossible to explain to beginners, because the literal meaning is complete nonsense… more on that in the fun fact section below.

That’s why we tend to use “C’est quoi ça ?” or just “C’est quoi ?” which is much simpler and shorter.

How to use

When you want to ask “What is it?” simply say “C’est quoi ça ?” or “C’est quoi ?” or “Qu’est-ce que c’est ?“. All these variations have the same meaning.

For more variations, check the “synonyms” section below.

Fun facts

One synonym of “C’est quoi ?” is “Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça ?” which means “What is it?” but the literal translation is “What is this that this is that this?“.

Even better: “Qu’est-ce que c’est que cette chose-là ?” which means “What is this thing?” is literally translated as “What is this that this is this thing here?

But both are perfectly correct in French… This language is crazy…

Synonyms and similarities

Example in a story with English translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this phrase in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Le rendez-vous
The date
Enfin, le jour du rendez-vous de Joe avec Angèle était arrivé. Il avait vraiment hâte d’y être.
Finally, the day of the date of Joe with Angèle has come. He really couldn’t wait to be there.
Ils ont convenu de se retrouver là où ils se sont rencontrés la première fois.
They agreed to meet where they met the first time.
Angèle:   Bonjour Joe ! Comment vas-tu?
Hello Joe! How are you?
Joe:   Bonjour Angèle ! Très bien, et toi ?
Hello Angèle! Very well and you?
Angèle:   Je vais bien, merci ! Je connais un café sympa, pas loin d’ici, où la vue est jolie, ça te dit ?
I’m fine thank you! I know a nice cafe, not far from here, where the view is nice, are you up for it?
Joe:   Ça a l’air sympa ! Allons-y !
That sounds good! Let’s go!
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