When to use qué and cuál in Spanish I see along all my years of teaching that students get really confused and sometimes even frustrated deciding when to use qué and cuál in Spanish.

As most of the times two of the biggest problem learning another language-among many others :S-are

1-when you have two options and there are not quite exactly the same in Spanish, I mean literal translation, the case of when to use qué and cuál in Spanish, which we are studying today


2-when you have two options in the language you are learning but just one in your language, like por and para, which we have mention before, if you missed the post you can have a read here. http://spanishconnectionedinburgh.co.uk/expressions-with-por-and-para/

So yeah, if you have problems with these two interrogative pronouns today is your lucky day, as we are diving in how to recognize when to use qué and cuál in Spanish.




When to use qué and cuál in Spanish

As most of the things too, it might seems hard but when you understand the trick is actually quite, I won’t say simple, but straight forward.

#Frist these two words qué and cuál in today’s blog have accent, that means they are used as pronouns in questions meaning “what” and “which”, without accents they are relative pronouns that mean “that” and “which”, but those ones are for another time J




It is used when we ask for an object or a type of objects in general, we do not think in any particular group

-¿qué te han regalado por tu cumpleaños?

What did you get for your birthday?

-¿Qué va a estudiar tu hijo?

What is your son going to study?

-¿Qué vas a ponerte para la reunión; falda o pantalón?

What are you wearing for the meeting, skirt or trousers?

#watchout-qué is always qué, it never has a plural.


Qué has some common idiomatic uses


-¿Qué hora es?                         What time is it?

-¡Qué lástima!                            What a shame!

-¡Qué hermoso!                         How beautiful!

-¡Qué día más horrible!              What a horrible day!

-¡Qué susto!                              What a fright!

-!Qué hombre tan alto!               Such a tall man!

-¡Qué bonito!                             How pretty!

-¿Y qué? ¿Y a mí qué?              So what?

-¿Para qué? ¿Por qué?              Why?




we use then when we ask for a specific thing (people or objects) inside a group or category

-¿Me dejas un diccionario?

Can you lend me a dictionary?

-Sí, claro, tengo dos, ¿cuál prefieres?

Yes, I got two, which one do you prefer?

-¿Cuál vas a ponerte para la reunión, el azul o el negro?

What dress are you going to wear to the meeting, the blue one or the black one?

-¿Cuál es la ciudad más grande del mundo?

What is the world largest city?


#watchout, we use cuál when we ask for a singular thing within a group, but cuál has a plural form, it  is cuáles,


Imagine you want to know your partner favourite song, just the one they like better, you would use, cuál, as you just one to know one

-¿Cuál es tu canción favorita?

What is your favourite song?

But if you are curious and you want to know if they have more than one favourite song, you would ask

-¿Cuáles son tus canciones favoritas?

What are your favourite songs?


That is the basic line, more focus in grammar



QUÉ can be followed by a noun.

-¿Qué diccionario tienes?

What dictionary do you have?

-¿Qué película has visto?

What movie have you seen?

But cuál can’t.

-¿Cuál diccionario tienes? THIS IS WRONG!!

-¿Cuál película has visto? IT IS WRONG!!


#importantthingstoremember when to use QUÉ AND CUÁL.




¿Qué +nouns?

-¿Qué coche te gusta más?

What car do you like better?


¿Cuál + DE +noun?

-¿Cuál de estos coches te gusta más?

Which one of these two cars you like better?



a)If we need to pick among two different things


¿Qué quieres, manzana o naranja?


b)To ask open questions, which in another words means when the question needs more than a “yes” or “no” answer.


-¿Qué piensas?

What are you thinking?

-¿Qué estudias?

What are you studying?


c)To choose among same elements but different shape, colour…

-¿Cuál + verb?

¿Cuál quieres, el grande o el pequeño?

3-With the verb “SER”

As you know the verb “ser” is never simple, so it wasn’t going to be that way this time .

Always the verb “SER” needs cuál, except if we are asking for a definition that we use “qué”, like ¿qué es un ordenador?=what is a computer?, ¿de qué color es la camisa? =what colour is the shirt? Otherwise


-¿Cuál es tu coche?

Which one is your car?

-¿Cuál es tu número de teléfono?

What is your telephone number?



And…….breath! That is all “amigos”, we have finished (for today), now as usual I want to give you something actionable, some HOMEWORK…and today is a quizclick this link and test yourself to find out if you have understood the different between those word pairs.

As usual now it is YOUR TURN, if you found this post useful share it with your friends to help them, and if not…share it as well to piss them off 🙂

I would love to hear from you, leave a comment below with a questions which uses qué or cuál.


!Hasta pronto!-See you soon!


3 Responses to “When to use qué and cuál in Spanish”

  1. Harris

    Sí. Hablé de este tema ayer en una de mis clases. Qué casualidad. Gracias por la prueba, Blanca.

  2. Madhura

    Ahora entiendo mejor este contraste entre Qué y Cuál. .. Muchas gracias Blanca. ☺

  3. Contra3

    Apart from these differences, relative pronouns function very similarly both in Spanish and English. They even have one thing in common! Both of them have a multipurpose relative pronoun, which can be used for almost anything. In English, this pronoun would be that, while in Spanish it would be


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