“Qué” and “Cuál” cause quite a few problems for learners of Spanish because they can both be translated as “Which” and “What” in different contexts. Generally “qué” means “what” and “cuál” means “which” however this can vary. In this blog post we will look at situations when you should use each one to avoid confusion and hopefully make things a bit clearer!
Remember: Both “qué” and “cuál” need accents when used in a question:
¿Qué hora es? – What time is it? or:
“¿Cuál prefieres? – Which do you prefer?
You also see them used within sentences as connecting words and in these cases they do not have an accent and they translate as “that” or “which”.
• To ask for a definition:
¿Qué es la capital de Colombia? – What is the capital of Colombia?
¿Qué hace un director? – What does a manager do?
¿Qué es un botiquín? – What is a “botiquín”?
• Qué is usually placed before nouns and translates as “Which …?”:
¿Qué camiseta prefieres? – Which T-shirt do you prefer?
¿En qué casa vives? – Which house do you live in?
¿Qué película viste? – Which film did you see?
• Qué is used in a lot of idiomatic expressions:
¡Qué bien! – Great!
¡Qué miedo! – How scary!
¡Qué playa más bonita! – What a pretty beach!
¿Y qué? – So what?
• Use “cuál” before any form of the verb “ser” which translates as “what” but not asking for a definition:
¿Cuál es tu dirección? – What is your address?
¿Cuáles son tus pasatiempos favoritos? – What are your favourite hobbies?
¿Cuál es tu película preferida? – What is your favourite film?
• Cuál is used to ask “Which one(s)?” out of a group:
¿Cuál prefieres? – Which one do you prefer? / Whereas, ¿Qué prefieres? = What do you prefer?
¿Cuáles son los más deliciosos? – Which ones are the most delicious?