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I just came across the sentence:  Qu'est-ce qu'il est vachard ! - He's so mean!

I'm familiar with the use of "quel" before a noun to mean "what a... (example: Quelle bonne surprise.  What a nice surprise).  It seems that "qu'est-ce qu'il est" is the equivalent with an adjective -- kind of "Wow, is he mean."  

 

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I am not sure to understand exctly your question

yes "qu'est ce qu'il est" is an exclamation, I think  like "Wow, he is so"

Well, I believe there 2 things in your comments

Quel is used before a noun but in your above example it's not Quel but  Qu'est (contraction of Que and verb ëtre) which has a différent meaning. Let's take some examples as follows : 

Qu'est ce qu'il se passe ici ?- (What's going on here)

Qu'est ce que tu as fait hier ? (What did you do yesterday)

In your sentence Qu'est-ce qu'il est vachard - it's a statement but a question , so I'm not sure but How can he be so mean ! may better work . Let us know

Surely "Qu'est-ce qu'il est vachard !"  is  a statement and not a question.I don't see in what context it could be a question.

I think another way of saying this ("He is so mean!") is simply  "Qu'il est vachard!" -and you could also say "Combien il est vachard!" (as well as I remember- but  I think it would sound   a bit affected).

Another example of this kind of usage would be "Qu'on est bêtes" or "Qu'est-ce qu'on est bêtes"  said when you have made  a stupid mistake. ("God we are fools !")

Combien il est vachard ! is not correct but Comment il est vachard could be used as well

Also - Qu'est ce que l'on est bêtes . 

There's the English equivalent "Is he mean or what?" or even "Is he mean enough?" if we really wanted to translate it as a question.  But I see from this and your other ways of expressing the concept how it works.  thanks  

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