The Difference Between QUÉ and CUÁL in Spanish

Quite frequently, students confuse the uses of the interrogatives qué and cuál in Spanish, due to the fact that both are often translated by the same word in English. Do you know when to use qué and cuál in Spanish?


The difference between qué and cuál


To know the difference between qué and cuál in Spanish, it is important to keep a couple of questions in mind.


If we want to know the definition of a thing or an idea, as we would look up information on Google or Wikpedia, we think of the name of the object or idea and define it. In Spanish, to ask about an object or idea, we use qué + the verb ser.


For example,

  • ¿Qué es un árbol? (What is a tree?) in the singular.

  • ¿Qué son los árboles? (What are trees?) in the plural.

When we are not interested in asking about the meaning of a specific word because we already know it, but in asking about the difference between similar objects in a unit, we use the word cuál + the verb ser.


For example,

  • ¿Cuál es el árbol más grande? ("What is the largest tree?") in the singular.

  • ¿Cuáles son los árboles más grandes? ("What are the largest trees?") in the plural.

In this case, we are seeking to differentiate between objects of the same name.


Now you know how to define an object and how to differentiate it in a group, using qué and cuál.



Do you have more examples of when to use qué and cuál in Spanish?

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