FR: Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça ?

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by unefemme1, Jan 27, 2007.

  1. unefemme1 Senior Member

    English, New Zealand
    Hi, i was reading this French text and came across this phrase (??). I researched online and only found it was the title of a song. I was wondering if anyone would knoow what it means though. I don't know how to go about translating it, so anyone's help would be great, thanks!


    Moderator note: multiple threads merged to create this one
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 6, 2008
  2. marget Senior Member

    What's that?
     
  3. unefemme1 Senior Member

    English, New Zealand
    Is that all it means? It seems rather complicated :S I thought "What's that?" would be something like, qu'est-ce que c'est?...
     
  4. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça = qu'est-ce que c'est, but with a hint of reproof / shock / amazement:
    What on Earth is that?
     
  5. marget Senior Member

    Can you give more context?
     
  6. unefemme1 Senior Member

    English, New Zealand
    egueule: I see what you mean. Yeah, I think that might fit into what the text was about...
    The context was just about the femininity/masculinity of French nouns. I just wasn't quite sure what the phrase was refering to.
     
  7. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?/! = What's that?/!
    From a grammatical point of view, this idomatic question or exclamation is extremely difficult to analyse. I have never been able to reconstitute its generation. All I can detect is "est-ce que", the well-known interrogative adverb of French. I also suspect there is a cleft sentence or a pseudo-cleft sentence in the underlying stucture. In brief I'm stuck. If someone could explain me.
     
  8. unefemme1 Senior Member

    English, New Zealand
    Oh, well unfortunately I can't remember the sentence that came before AND after this, so i'll have to find that piece of paper again and check. So far, the answers have been "What's that?", i'm guessing this is probably just another version of saying, "Qu'est-ce que c'est?". I'll wait for more natives to confirm this.
     
  9. philfree Senior Member

    French
    Salut!
    Il nous arrive de dire "qu'est que c'est que ça?" pour marquer beaucoup plus notre etonnement qu'un simple "qu'est-ce que c'est?"
    L'ajout "que ça" permet d'insister (mettre l'emphase) sur cette chose que l'on ne connaît pas (c'est la première fois par exemple) ou sur cette chose qui nous choque par exemple. Does it make sense ?
     
  10. marget Senior Member

    I've never been able to analyze it either. It seems to me that we're missing the verb être after the "ça", or whatever might follow. and that we're making the utterance more emphatic. I suppose the same is true of a question such as "qu'est-ce que c'est que la démocratie" or "qu'est-ce que la démocratie". That extra que baffles me and I feel as though there's an implied "est" after the term we want identified.
     
  11. marget Senior Member

    Oui, bien sûr!:)
     
  12. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    English translation: What is it that that is that that? (!) J'ai toujours aimé cette phrase française!
     
  13. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    Hello Emma, :)
    you mean,
    what is this that is that that? :D

    I'm really embarrassed to admit it, but even though I'm able to explain the meaning of that idiom, I couldn't for the life of me explain its grammatical structure.:eek:
     
  14. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    Je dis quelquefois pour rigoler une formule équivalente plus courte, et plus... XVIIème : "Qu'est-ce cela ?" ;)
     
  15. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    egeuele, how do you know it's "this"? There is only "c" apostrophe, so we don't know whether it's "ceci" or "cela", do we? I don't know how I am daring to argue with a French person about their own language!
     
  16. philfree Senior Member

    French
    On pourrait même dire "Qu'est-ce?" tout court ;)
     
  17. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    Ce n'est ni ceci ni cela, c'est ce, qui pourrait être effectivement traduit par this ou par that, mais pas par it, qui n'est pas un démonstratif. Non ?

    En fait j'aurais même dû écrire, pour être cohérente :
    what is this that this is that that?
    que est ce que ce est que ça ?

    Edit
    J'ajoute que cette traduction littérale ne sert manifestement à rien, sauf à faire sourire.
     
  18. philfree Senior Member

    French
    Mot à mot "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça?" pourrait être l'équivalent de :
    "Quoi cela est que cela est?". So, "that" is better than "this". What do you think ?
     
  19. marget Senior Member

    That's why I always want to put "est" after ça. Then we could say: "what is this (or it) that this is that that is!

    I think that we can translate "ce" as "it". Qui est-ce ? "Who is it?'
     
  20. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    Merci, Egueule et philfree (!!). This is exactly my point! One is saying that "this" is preferable, while the other prefers "that"! Oui, Egueule, je comprends que "ce" n'est ni ceci ni cela, mais tous les deux français ont suggeré "this/that" comme traduction. Je suis confuse, moi.
     
  21. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    You're right of course Margie. I know that we usually translate ce as it.
    I was just trying to be as literal as possible.:eek: It was pretty pointless; I'm sorry.
     
  22. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça ?

    Que = interrogative pronoun
    que = relative pronoun
    que = ??
    I can't identify the grammatical function (the part of speech) for que. And is it the same as in : Qu'est-ce qu' un rêve ?

    Sorry to belabor this, but I'm just seeing if I can twist around what I already know to understand it in a new way :)
     
  23. marget Senior Member

    It seems to me that que is a relative pronoun and I think it is the same in both cases.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2014
  24. Football Taxis

    Football Taxis Senior Member

    Oxford, OH
    Midwestern American English
    i'll just add that i thought about this too much, and simply accept it as idiomatic. but i'd like to propose a sort of different way of thinking about that last "que":

    it's almost a comma.

    "what is it, that?"
    "qu'est-ce que c'est, ça?"

    but i just shake my head and end up with liking much better the less proper phrase, "c'est quoi ça."
     
  25. Cath.S.

    Cath.S. Senior Member

    Bretagne, France
    français de France
    Tu aurais pu formuler ta question ainsi : « Qu'est-ce que c'est que ce "que" là ? » .:eek:
    En revanche, je ne crois pas que l'on décompose qu'est-ce que, qui est considéré comme une locution figée et donc non analysable.
    Ce qui ne répond pas vraiment à ta/la question, j'en ai bien conscience.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2014
  26. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Montréal
    Français, Québec ♀
    Funny you should say that. Reading the phrase, I immediately thought What in the World is that? :)

    As for exercise in futility, in my mind it goes like this :
    Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça = Quoi est cela, que cela est = What is that, that that is? :D

    Et en québécois étonné... Quossé ça !!!
     
  27. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    :)
    En français ça donne quelque chose comme "keusseu". ;)
     
  28. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça?
    Fiat lux! I may have found the solution.
    I'm afraid my demonstration requires a preliminary step with another verb than "être".

    DIRE
    A: Alors?
    B: Je dis non.
    A: Tu dis non? > Tu dis quoi?
    ["Non" becomes "quoi" in the question.]
    B: Je dis non.
    A: *Quoi est-ce que tu dis > Qu’est-ce que tu dis?
    [When the interrogative adverb "est-ce que" is inserted, "quoi" is fronted and becomes "que".]
    B: Je dis non!
    A: C’est quoi que tu dis?
    [This is the cleft version of "Tu dis quoi?".]
    B: Je dis et redis non.
    A: *Quoi est-ce que c’est que tu dis? > Qu’est-ce que c’est que tu dis?
    [This question results from the introduction of the interrogative adverb "est-ce que" in the cleft question "C’est quoi que tu dis? ". "Quoi" is fronted and becomes "que".]

    ÊTRE
    A: Alors
    B: C’est une planorbe.
    A: C’est une planorbe? > C’est quoi?
    ["Une planorbe" becomes "quoi" in the question.]
    B: C’est une planorbe.
    A: *Quoi est-ce que c’est? > Qu’est-ce que c’est?
    [When the interrogative adverb "est-ce que" is inserted, "quoi" is fronted and becomes "que".]
    B: C’est un planorbe: p-l-a-n-o-r-b-e.
    A: *C’est quoi que c’est? > C’est quoi ça?
    [This is the cleft version of "C’est quoi?".
    A further transformation is necessary for it to be grammatical:
    the second "c’est" has to be replaced by "ça".]
    B: Je répète, c’est une planorbe.
    A: *Qu’est-ce que c’est que c’est? > Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça?
    [This question results from the introduction of the interrogative adverb "est-ce que" in the cleft question "C’est quoi que tu dis? ". "Quoi" is fronted and becomes "que". A further transformation is necessary for the sentence to be grammatical: the second "c’est" has to be replaced by "ça".]

    In brief, the key is the transformation of "c’est" into "ça" in the cleft questions.
     
  29. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Montréal
    Français, Québec ♀
    Et du coup, je me rends compte que j'ai oublié "que ça", dans mon post 26.

    qu'est-ce que c'est que ça =
    quoi est cela que cela est que ça =
    what is that, that that is, that that.

    Je trouve ça plus amusant, si on met that partout. :p
     
  30. sudest Senior Member

    Turkish
    qu'est-ce que c'est que ça=what's that?

    Translation okay.My question is about the bolded que. What is the function of the latest que,please?
     
  31. dasubergeek Senior Member

    English - US; French - CH
    "Qu'est-ce que c'est" means "what is it". If you want to say "what is THAT", you need to use ça, but in order to insert it you need "que". It means "that", as in "what is it that it is".

    Which is why just about everyone speaking (not writing) would just say something like "c'est quoi ça?"
     
  32. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    The que is merely a connective. It is found in similar expressions requesting an identity or a definition. It cannot be translated.

    Qu'est-ce qu'un livre (QU'est-ce que c'est qu'un livre?)
    Qu'est-ce que la philosophie"

    As was pointed out, a familiar alternative is C'est quoi...? But here, no additional que is used.
     
  33. Kerrie1611 New Member

    English - Canada
    I'm new here and I have a question about "qu'est ce c'est ca"

    Does this have the same meaning as, "qu'est-ce que c'est que ça" only minus the "que's" or is it grammatically incorrect?

    The context is in making a mistake and I'm wondering if I'm being asked "what is the mistake" or "is that all (as in, is there only one mistake?)"

    Thanks.
     
  34. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    One may not say: qu'est ce c'est ca?

    The only possibilities are the ones given above.

    Cheers!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2014
  35. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    Provence
    français
    No, que ça here doesn't mean the same thing as in, say, il n'y a que ça (there's only that).
     
  36. Roder51 New Member

    English
    Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça = What's that there?
     
  37. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    No, it just means, What is that?
     
  38. Roder51 New Member

    English
    Right you are. I was not thinking. LOL!
     
  39. CarlosRapido

    CarlosRapido Senior Member

    Québec - Canada
    français - English (Can)
    Sorry to revive an old post - seems to me that there is a similarly convoluted English saying with pretty much the same meaning; "What is that there thingy?"
     
  40. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    Except that "What is that there thingy?" is colloquial and grammatically incorrect, whereas Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça ? is neither. ;)
     

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