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

Get ready to learn all the things you want to know about the basic French sentence “Qu’est-ce que c’est”.

Including a full guide of what it is and how to use it in a casual conversation with an audio example. But that’s not all, we also sprinkled useful informations like synonyms, slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example and more!

Oh and in case you are interested, on this page you will find more of these sentences guides and the ultimate directory of all our French words guides on this page. Ready to learn? Let’s go!

Table of Contents

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French to English translation

Pronunciation guide

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

Qu'est-ce que c'est meaning


The literal meaning is:

  • Qu’est-ce → What is this
  • Que → That
  • C’est → This 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 a 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…


  • C’est quoi ça ? (“What is that?“)
  • C’est quoi ? (“What is that?“)
  • Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça? (“Whats is that?“)
  • Kezaco? (“Whats is it?“)(Slang)

Everyday life dialogue example

Audio dialogue by French natives

Dialogue audio

Dialogue text

” Qu’est-ce que c’est ? “
” What is it? “
” Je ne sais pas, tu as une idée ? “
” I don’t know, do you have an idea? “
Aucune idée
” No idea “
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