Are "que" and "quel" considered the same? Can I use them to ask "what" questions, or there are situations one is suitable and the other is not?
Quel means “which”, but in some cases, you can also translate it as “what”.
Quel est ton animal préféré ?
means: “What is your favorite animal?”.
On this question you have to answer which animal you like most. (Yeah, I know, it can also be “what your favorite animal is”, but you can say “which” here!)
Que is most used for asking questions like: “What do you eat?”
Que manges-tu ?
is translated as: “What are you eating?”
What you have to answer is what you are eating.
Note: Que can only be used in the following forms of questions:
- “est-ce que” (Qu'est-ce que vous dites?)
- inversion (Que dites-vous?)
and not in questions with intonation! Then que will be replaced with quoi:
Tu manges quoi ?