'Quel' as a French Interrogative Adjective: Which? What?

Use it when you have to choose between two or more nouns

'Quel garçon aime etudier ?' ('Which boy likes to study?')
'Quel garçon aime etudier ?' ('Which boy likes to study?'). Tom Merton/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Sometimes French grammar is much stricter than English grammar. If you are presented with a choice of two books, a simple question like "What book do you want?" is technically incorrect because in proper English, the question would be, "Which book do you want?" In reality, the former is much more common than the latter.

In French, however, one does not have this option. The French equivalent of which, quel, must be used whenever you are choosing between two or more nouns. Like all French adjectives, quel has to agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies. Scroll down to the bottom to see our table with all the forms of quel.

The Essential 'Quel' as Interrogative Adjective

The uses of the interrogative quel are fairly straightforward. Essentially, you need this interrogative adjective whenever you want to ask for specific information about a noun. For example:

  • Pierre m'a prêté un livre. Quel livre ? > Pierre loaned me a book. Which book?
  • Quelle heure est-il ? > What time is it?
  • De quel côté es-tu ? > Which / Whose side are you on?
  • Quels sont ses projets ? > What are his plans?

'Est-Ce Que' or Inversion

You can ask a question with quel using est-ce que or subject-verb inversion. For example:

  • Quel livre veux-tu ? / Quel livre est-ce que tu veux ? > What book do you want?
  • Quelles pommes aime-t-il ? / Quelles pommes est-ce qu'il aime ? > Which apples does he like?

'Quel' plus a Noun

Quel plus a noun may be preceded by a preposition. For example:

  • À quelle heure veux-tu partir ? / À quelle heure est-ce que tu veux partir ? > What time do you want to leave?
  • De quels livres parle-t-il ? / De quels livres est-ce qu'il parle ? > What books is he talking about?

'Quel' plus 'être'

Use quel plus the conjugated être to ask, "What is ...?" or "What are ...?" For example:

  • Quel est le problème ? > What's the problem?
  • Quelles sont les différences ? > What are the differences?

French Interrogative Adjectives

Singular Plural
Masculine quel quels
Feminine quelle quelles

Other Uses of 'Quel'

Interrogative Pronoun:

De tous vos matches, quel fut le plus difficile ? > Of all the matches you've played, which (one) was the most difficult / which was the most difficult one ?

Exclamative adjective: 

  • Quel idiot ! > What a fool !
  • Quel sale temps ! > What terrible weather !


Quel plus a noun can be replaced by the interrogative pronoun lequel ("which," "which one").

Quel is used in n'importe quel ("whichever," "whatever," "any") and other expressions with n'importe.

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Team, ThoughtCo. "'Quel' as a French Interrogative Adjective: Which? What?" ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, thoughtco.com/french-interrogative-adjectives-1368795. Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). 'Quel' as a French Interrogative Adjective: Which? What? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/french-interrogative-adjectives-1368795 Team, ThoughtCo. "'Quel' as a French Interrogative Adjective: Which? What?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/french-interrogative-adjectives-1368795 (accessed March 26, 2023).

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