What does "qu'est ce que c'est ça" mean? I thought c'est and ça means the same thing "it", so I'm a little confused why do we need to repeat it twice.

My teacher also said that we can use "qu'est ce que c'est" and "qu'est ce que ça", but they are slightly different. How exactly are they different?

1 Answer 1


The sentence:

Qu'est ce que c'est ?

Means "what is this?" (literally: "what is this that it is")

In older times, a simpler sentence would have been used:

Qu'est-ce ?

but it is now written/formal French.

The pronoun ça (a shortened form of cela) means this/that.

Here is is appended by the speaker to indicate what the question is referring to, usually by pointing the object.

It should be separated by a comma from the rest of the sentence:

Qu'est-ce que c'est, ça ?

or by another que:

Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça ? often colloquially pronounced /kɛseksa/

The next sentence is incorrect:

Qu'est ce que ça ?

Colloquial French can be:

C'est quoi, ça ?

Slang might be:

Quésaco / Kézaco ? (from Occitan Qu'es aquò)

  • So in formal writing, or to seem particularly Shakespearean, one can use "Qu'est-ce ?" Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 2:44
  • 1
    @TheEnvironmentalist Yes.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 8:10
  • The slang example is from European slang (maybe even France... Sorry, I'm not from the area). In Quebec, it would be : "Quessé ça ?" But there's probably other slang for that very setence in different regions too. There's a lot to talk about just about slang.
    – Karlyr
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 20:15
  • @Karlyr Quézaco was just a France French slang example which is possibly more common in Southern France, given its Occitan origin. By the way: Quessé ça ? can also be heard in France.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 21:16

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