How to say:

What's the Italian name of this noodle?

in French? I think a possible translation may be:

Quel est le nom italien de cette pâte?

But how can I translate it with est-ce que? Is there any general rule about how to ask questions with est-ce que on predicative expressions?


Thanks for the answers so far.

Usually we say:

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

when we want to ask what something is. But how can I ask what a certain attribute of something is, e.g. the Italian name of a pasta, with an interrogative adjective or pronoun being put in front of est-ce que, like:

Quel est-ce que ... ?

That is, it's not a yes/no question, but asking for a missing component of a complete sentence:

The Italian name of this pasta is ...

  • 1
    Related: What does “est-ce que” really mean?
    – Kareen
    Dec 16, 2014 at 6:10
  • 1
    Thank you for updating your question! Be sure to check back on already posted answer as you don't get notifications for edited answers.
    – Kareen
    Dec 16, 2014 at 16:59

5 Answers 5


As you are aware of, for most other interrogative sentences, a trick allows the subject–verb inversion to occur inside a dummy “être” main clause:

Que fait-il ? → Qu'est-ce qu'il fait ?
Où va-t-il ? → Où est-ce qu'il va ?
Le fait-il ? → Est-ce qu'il le fait ?

Quel and combien are asking for adjectival descriptions (respectively qualitative or quantitative) of some object. Similar tricks exist to turn any inversion to a “être” inversion.

Combien de maisons possède-t-il ? → Combien de maisons est-ce qu'il possède ?
Quel fruit vous a-t-il offert ? → Quel fruit est-ce qu'il vous a offert ?

Your question is interesting, you are asking for a similar trick for the following question:

Quel est le nom italien de cette pâte ?

Even though it may be a little disappointing, the answer is simply that there is no need to get rid of an inversion here. What you are looking for was never invented because there wasn't any posh inversion in this sentence in the first place.

Now if you want to know about familiar spoken language, you are more likely to hear

C'est quoi le nom italien de cette pâte ?

than anything else in spoken language. It's similar to

Il fait quoi ?
Il va où ?
Il le fait ?


Quel est le nom italien de cette pâte?

is a actually the right translation. You would however be hard put to translate that question with est-ce que because it introduces a yes/no question, which your example isn't. Quel est and est-ce que, while both question-introducing expressions, are not interchangeable. Quel est introduces an open-ended question.

As for asking questions with est-ce que on predicative expressions, you'll need to put the predicate at the end of the question in order to form a yes/no question. Using some of Wikipedia's examples:

Est-ce que l'idée était ridicule?
Est-ce qu'ils l'ont élu président?
Est-ce que le serpent est dans le sac?

A source a confusion here is that "qu'est-ce que c'est?" is an open-ended question. The reason for that is that est-ce que and qu'est-ce que are different. You can't take qu' out and have the same expression. That particle is virtually the quel from the first type of question. It opens the question and is therefore very important.

Therefore, if you want to ask what the Italian name of this noodle is using that structure, you could say

Qu'est-ce qu'est le nom italien de cette pâte?

While this question is grammatically correct, it would not be used as much or as naturally as the first one.

As for predicative expressions with this question structure, you would have to choose what you want to ask about the expression. Are you asking about the predicative or about the subject? You may also have to change the opening particle to match what you are asking about.

  • Qu' is elision for que or quel which is used for objects or adjectives (or everything that is not what follows).
  • Qui is used for people.
  • Quand is used for time.
  • is used for places.

Using the same examples:

Qu'est-ce qu'était l'idée? Elle était ridicule.
Qu'est-ce qui était ridicule? L'idée était ridicule.
Qu'est-ce qu'ils l'ont élu? Ils l'ont élu président.
Qui est-ce qu'ils ont élu président? Ils ont élu M. Dupont (replaced by l' in the original statement).
Où est-ce qu'est le serpent? Il est dans le sac.
Qu'est-ce qu'est dans le sac? Un serpent est dans le sac.

While all of those are correct, it'll be much more common to use this kind of structure to ask about the subject than the predicate, like the second question of each statement.


As mentioned by Kareen , « est-ce que » is for “ yes/no” questions, and if you already have a suspicion of what the word is (spaghetti, for example) you could use « est-ce que » to form the “yes/no” question provided by Chrisw.

If, however, you don’t have the slightest clue what the Italian word is (and you’re possibly not even sure what the exact word in your own language is) and you insist on using « est-ce que » , you could point to the noodle(s) in question and ask one of the following:

Est-ce qu’il existe un mot (en) italien pour (désigner) ces pâtes-là ?


Est-ce qu’il y a un mot (en) italien pour (désigner) ces pâtes-là ?

(Of course a snarky kind of person might simply answer: “Yes !” [meaning: “Yes, of course such a word exists, but I’m not going to tell it to you,”] but chances are that you will get the answer that you are seeking.)

  • 1
    In response to the update in your question: It sounds too awkward for me to put it in my answer, but if you really need a non-"yes/no" question that includes "est-ce que", you would probably be understood asking the following: "Qu'est-ce que c'est le mot (en) italien pour (désigner) ces pâtes-là ?" @PJ.Hades
    – Papa Poule
    Dec 16, 2014 at 16:31

The literal/simplistic translation of "est-ce" is "is this".

That literal/simplistic translation is correct!

So use "est-ce ...?" whenever you want to ask, "is this ...?" or "is it ...?", for example:

  • "Est-ce un chien?" => "Is it a dog?"
  • "Est-ce possible que ...?" => "Is it possible that ...?"

Conversely, "quel" means "what" or "which", so for example:

  • "Quel est le nom de ...?" => "What is the name of ...?" or "Which is the name of ...?"

But how can I translate it with est-ce que?

  • "Est-ce que le nom italien de cette pâte est spaghetti? => "Is it that the Italian name of this pasta is spaghetti?"

In colloquial English you'd phrase that as "Is the Italian name of this pasta spaghetti?" instead of asking "Is it that ...?"

You can't say exactly that in French, i.e. "Est le nom italien de cette pâte spaghetti?" would be wrong.

But (as an alternative to asking "Est-ce que ...?") you could ask, "Le nom italien de cette pâte, est-il spaghetti?" ("the Italian name of this pasta, is it spaghetti?").


Usually we say Qu'est-ce que c'est? when we want to ask what something is.

Yes: at root that's asking "Que" "est" "ce?" i.e. "What is that?"

But how can I ask what a certain attribute of something

Include the attribute in the question: e.g. "Quel est le nom de ...?" as described above.

Depending on the type of attribute you can also use different questions: "Comment se nomme ...?" (to ask "how is it named?") or " se trouve ...? (to ask "where is it found?").

I'm not sure but colloquially you might also be able to ask, "C'est quoi, le nom de ...?" i.e. "It is what, the name of ...?

  • 2
    No comma in “Le nom italien de ces pâtes, est-il spaghetti ?”. (Also pâtes would be plural here.) It's the formal way of asking “is the Italian name of this pasta spaghetti?”. In informal, spoken French, you can ask “Le nom italien de ces pâtes, c'est spaghetti?” (the subject-verb-complement with raising intonation form of asking questions in French). Dec 16, 2014 at 12:49
  • @Gilles I would say the comma, I wasn't sure whether I should write it.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:59

"Comment appelle-t-on ce type de pâtes en
italien?" me semble être la meilleure traduction. Il est important de noter que "pâte" au singulier veut dire "batter" dans ce contexte. Pasta ou noodle se traduit par "pâtes" au pluriel.

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