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Italian Language/use of "quale" and "che cosa"

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Question
Dear Maria,

I am sorry to bother you again, and I hope you will not mind the following questions as I am trying very hard to understand the correct use of both the interrogative pronoun “quale” and the interrogative pronoun “che cosa”.

I understand that the interrogative pronoun “quale”  must be used with the verb “essere” to say “what”.  But, can you please tell me if it is also possible to use the interrogative pronoun “che cosa” with the verb “essere” to say “what”.  

For example  -   it is possible to say “Che cosa è?” (What is it?)

Or, is it only possible to use the interrogative pronoun “quale”  with the verb “essere” as in saying  - “Qual è?” (What is it?)

But, if it is possible to use both the interrogative pronoun “che cosa” with the verb “essere”  and the interrogative pronoun “quale”  with the verb “essere” to say  “what”, can you please tell me if there are any rules or guidelines to know when to use “quale” and when to use “che cosa”?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

first of all I have to tell you that “quale”, when used as an interrogative word, can be either an interrogative adjective or an interrogative pronoun, according to the context.
For example:

-“Quale borsa vuole?” ( which bag would you like?) where “quale” is an interrogative adjective.
-“In quali paesi hai vissuto?” ( what countries have you lived in?) where “quale” is an interrogative adjective.
-“A quale  fermata scendi?” ( which stop are you getting off at?) where “quale” is an interrogative adjective.

-“Quale vuoi?” ( which do you want?) where “quale” is an interrogative pronoun.
-“Quale di queste due medicine è più efficace?” ( which of these two medicines is more effective?) where “quale” is an interrogative pronoun.
-“Di tutti questi impiegati, quali sono i più competenti? “ (of all the employees, who are the most competent? ) where “quale” is an interrogative pronoun.

As for the interrogative pronoun “che cosa” or the interrogative pronoun “quale” with the verb “essere” to say “what”, please note that:

-it is possible to say “Che cosa è?”, "Che cos'è?" or “Cos’è” (What is it?)  as well as “Qual è?” (What is it?) .

-you must use “Qual è?”  in sentences like e.g. “Qual è il tuo scopo?” , i.e. when you  are asking which thing or which particular one of many.

-you must use “Che cos’è?” or simply “Cos’è” in sentences like e.g. ”Che cos’è che vuoi?”,”Cos’è che cerchi?”, “Che cosa è?”,  i.e. when you  are asking something that you do not know.


No other rule or guideline to know when to use “quale” and when to use “che cosa” I can give you.

Anyway I hope that this can help you just a bit, at least!

Best regards,

Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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