Learn French
with Audio Stories

Try for Free


The French sentence "Qu'est-ce que c'est"

Get prepared to find out all the things you want to know about the basic sentence "Qu'est-ce que c'est ?". This include a complete explanation of what it is and how you can use it in everyday life with an audio example. Together with the cool stuff we sprinkled like dialogue example, synonyms, slow pronunciation audio and more!

French to English translation

  • Translation : What is it?

  • Register : Neutral - Basic

Pronunciation guide



  • IPA : / kɛ-s kə sɛ ? /

aesthetic french quote quest ce que cest

Learn French
with Audio Stories

Try for Free

Qu'est-ce que c'est meaning


The literal meaning is:

N.B: "Est-ce" = "C'est" but inverted.

This French sentence is (sadly) popular for being impossible to explain to beginners because the literal meaning is complete nonsense. This is generally translated as: "What is it?" or "What is that?".

The trick is to keep in mind that "Qu'est ce que" = "What" in this situation and "C'est ?" = "Is it?". Do not lose yourself in the literal translation, it's not worth it.

You can see "Qu'est ce que" as a long and complex way to say "What". That's why we tend to use instead "C'est quoi ?" or "C'est quoi ça ?" (What is that?) which is much simpler, shorter and neutral.

How to use it

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

For more variations, check the "synonyms" section below.

Funny stuff

The full variation of this expression 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?" and is literally translated as "What is this that this is this thing here?"

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


↓ Example in a story with English translation ↓

Finally, let's see an example in a parallel story with slow audio.

Le chariot volé

The stolen cart

Théo et Olivia ont décidé d'aller faire des courses pour la semaine.
Théo and Olivia decided to run errands for the week.
OliviaJe veux manger moins de bonbons et de biscuits. Arrête moi si j'en achète, s'il te plait !
I want to eat less candies and biscuits. Stop me if I'm buying any, please!
ThéoQuand tu veux manger des biscuits, tu es inarrêtable...
When you want to eat biscuits, you're unstoppable...
OliviaJe sais... mais essaie, d'accord ?
I know... but try, okay?
All right.
Ils entrent dans le supermarché et prennent un chariot.
They enter the supermarket and take a cart.
ThéoTu as la liste de produits à acheter ?
Do you have the list of products to buy?


The story just started!

Get full access to 365 texts and quizzes, including this one.

Discover more

Already a member? Full story and quiz here.


Ça en vaut la peine


To vocabulary list


C'est génial !

Go to previous text Go to previous phrase
Play or pause audio
Go to next phrase Go to next text