Today I’d like to talk about the difference between cosa and quale in Italian as question words. I’ll cover also the meaning of cosa, che cosa and che when you want to ask a question in Italian.
Quale asks you to choose or pick one or more things among which other options are possible.
Ex: Quale città italiana preferisci?
What Italian city do you prefer?
So, among all the Italian cities, choose the one you prefer.
Quali tipi di musica preferisci?
What types of music do you prefer?
There are many types of music you can choose from, but tell me your favourite.
When quale is followed by the verb to be in the third singular person it loses the final vowel e.
Ex: Qual è casa tua?
Which one is your house?
Cosa can only be used before verbs and generally asks you the definition of something or an explanation about something.
a. Cos’è un cardo?
What’s a thistle
b. Cosa mangi?
What are you eating?
Difference between cos and quale
Let’s see now the different meaning two sentences acquire when they’re formed with the Italian word cosa and with the Italian word quale.
a. Cos’è il segreto per diventare ricchi?
b. Qual è il segreto per diventare ricchi?
Option a is a strange question because by using the word “cosa” you’re actually asking: what does it mean the clause “the secret to become rich”? So, you’re asking for a definition here.
With option b, instead, you’re asking what the secret to become rich is.
Cosa, Che cosa, Che
As question words cosa, che cosa and che have the same meaning. The only thing that I usually feel is that che is generally more informal than cosa and che cosa.
a. Che cosa/Cosa/Che guardi?
What are you looking?
b. Che cosa/Cosa/Che pensi della dieta vegana?
What do you think about the Vegan diet?
Che can also be used in informal Italian to replace quale when this is followed by a noun.
Ex: Quale abito preferisci? -> Che abito preferisci
What dress do you prefer?
I hope I’ve helped you a little bit to better understand how to use cosa and quale in Italian.
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Original image by Sophieja23