Discuss and learn French: French vocabulary, French grammar, French culture etc.
Let's sum up
Qu'est ce que c'est que la philosophie? right as casual or verbal - could be written in a text for a conference.
Qu'est ce que la philosophie? common as formal - could be written.
Quel est-ce que le problèm ? wrong it's not the same form as the previous one.
"quel" is a simple interrogative pronoun. so it is used as the other interrogative pronouns or adverbs (qui, quand, ou ...) pronoun + verb + subject.
qui est ce monsieur ?
ou allez vous ?
quel est le problème ?
"qu'est-ce que" is what we call "forme renforcée" similar to "est-ce que". It's an expression used as it is. there are many forms with each pronoun or adverb. (qui est-ce que, ...). But none with the pronoun "quel".
Hi George/Robert -- I don't know if this helps to explain the difference, but you can maybe think of "Qu'est-ce que (c'est que)...?" as meaning something like "What is the essence of...?", "What is meant by...?". So it's more usual to find it with questions such as "Qu'est-ce que l'amour?", "Qu'est-ce que la philosophie?" etc.
Or for example:
(1) "Qu'est-ce que la philosophie?" -> "What is philosophy (in general)?", "What is meant by the concept of 'philosophy'?"
(2) "Quelle est la philosophie que vous adoptez?" -> "What is the (specific/identified/choice of) philosophy that you adopt?"
So when you ask "What is the problem?", this is much more likely to refer to a question analogous to type (2) rather than type (1) -- you're effectively asking something like "Which is the problem that has occurred?" etc.
There is no chance is there that "que" used to be used to mean "comme" in the far distant past. (in the middle ages for example)?
Does "que" mean "comme" in any of the other romance languages or in Latin.?
Yes I have got it that "problem" doesn't suit the "in general" usage but I still find the way it is used overall unusual even if it is a nice way to speak.
I hope Neil will put us right but my feeling is that it could be a conjunction with an unstated clause
I am asking about "comme" because I wonder if "que" and "comme" could have been used very differently in the distant past (hundreds of years ago which I think Neil does know about).
It is just a wild guess on my part.
In English "comme" can be translated to "like" or "as" so it has more than one meaning.
Hi George -- at one time, you could use que in an analogous way to soit or ou today, e.g. you could say "Que bon que mauvais" to mean something like "Both good and bad", "Either good or bad". But I think this is a slightly different use.
I'm honestly not sure just how the use with que in this case arose, and there's not really any consensus on how to analyse it as far as I'm aware, but I probably wouldn't try and shoehorn it into any of the traditional categories such as "conjunction" (which in itself is a bit of a 'dustbin' category in any case). I have one reference mentioning that Henri Frei called it an "outil d'inversion, un signaleur expressif"... but really that's just grammarian-speak for "I ain't got a clue how to analyse this so I'll just string some meaningless fancy-sounding words together" :)
What I would just point out is that you find this que used in a few contexts in literary French-- not just in the case of an inverted copula:
Quelle délivrance que cette révélation!
C'est un gentilhomme que ton voisin!