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  1. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Hi everybody,

    Stupid and basic question, I know, but know would I say "What is in the box?"

    Qu'est-ce qui est dans la boîte? (I'm leaning towards this since the thing that is in the box would be the subject of the clause)
    Qu'est-ce que...?
    Qui est dans...?
    Que est dans...?
    Quel est dans...?

    Sorry for the elementary question!

    Thanks in advance!

    :)
     
  2. Pierre_zane Junior Member

    Beijing
    Chinese
    No need to feel sorry. I'm also a beginner and I agree with you on the first one.
     
  3. Tochka Senior Member

    À mon gré...
    I believe you might also be able to say "Qu'est-ce dans la boîte" (What is (it) in the box).
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2013
  4. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Thank you both very much!
     
  5. spirite Senior Member

    southwestern Virginia
    English - USA
    Qu'est-ce qu'il y a dans la boîte?

    You had the right idea with qu'est-ce qui, but qu'est-ce qui has to be followed by a verb other than être.
     
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    This is incorrect. You may be thinking of examples like "What is your name?" or "What is the capital of Switzerland?", which should not be translated with Qu'est-ce qui est, but when followed by an adjective or a prepositional phrase (as in the current example, dans la boîte), Qu'est-ce qui est is fine. And of course if être is part of a passé composé or passive construction (Qu'est-ce qui est arrivé ? Qu'est-ce qui est marqué ?).

    See also:
    Qu'est-ce qui est si drôle ?

    What is
    FR: Quel/Quelle est X ? / Qu'est-ce que (c'est,) X ?
    Quelle est la vraie cause ? / Qu'est-ce qui est la vraie cause ?
    FR: Qu'est-ce qui est ton film favori?
    Qu'est-ce qui est une trahison ?
     
  7. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Thank you all for taking the time to reply! It seems that for questions that don't involve être the logic is quite simple: in the X est-ce Y construction X is qui when asking "who" (people) and X is que when asking "what" (things) - and that Y is qui when X is the subject of the question and Y is que when X is the object of the question... right? I know it's more complicated than that with regard to human and non-human animates etc., but that's another discussion.

    CapnPrep, would you mind "spelling out" the rules for these interrogative structures when être is used? For instance, why is it that one could not use Qu'est-ce qui est with "What is your name?" or "What is the capital of Switzerland?" ? The name and the capital are what is being asked about (the subject) right? I'm actually always confused about what is the subject and object with être,since it is intransitive - so maybe I'm not even thinking about it correctly. And why is it that "when followed by an adjective or a prepositional phrase (as in the current example,dans la boîte), Qu'est-ce qui est is fine"? Is that just a rule that I should take for granted, or is it part of a larger grammar?

    Again, I thank you all very much for taking the time to help - your posts have been very helpful!

    :)
     
  8. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    If you simply want to know how to ask it, I'd simply say qu'y a t-il dans la boîte ?
    If you want to know how to use all those qu'est-ce que, qui est-ce que, qu'est-ce qui etc. constructions, then it's a much broader question, with an answer probably too large to fit in a single thread...
     
  9. Tochka Senior Member

    That's how it was explained to me and my experience thus far has borne it out.
     
  10. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    Quel est is used when completed by a noun asking for a selection. Quel est ton nom? ( Of all the names which one is yours?) Quelle est la capitale de la Suisse? (Out of all the capitals which one is that of Switzerland?) When completed by something else, Qu'est ce qui est may be used. But in the case mentioned in the title, it would be more idiomatic to use il y a. Qu'est-ce qu'il y a dans la boîte or Qu'y a-t-il dans la boîte?
     
  11. charlesread-atlanta Junior Member

    Atlanta GA USA
    English - US
    Ahhhhh, so since there are many names that one could be named, and since there are many cities that could be the capital, I need to use a form of quel - makes sense! Thanks, geostan! (and everybody else kind enough to help along the way!)

    :)
     
  12. spirite Senior Member

    southwestern Virginia
    English - USA
    Oops, right! I was indeed thinking qu'est-ce qui + être+ noun. Tsk.:eek:
     

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