O que or Qual

I was wondering if anyone could help me understand when to use ‘O que’ and ‘qual’ as when I go to write ‘What’ I am always writing ‘qual’ but it always seems to be wrong. (Brazilian Portuguese)

Hi @hollybester.

It’s actually a tricky point. In general, we can say that “que” is “what” and “qual” is “which”.
So, “qual” would normally be used when we have a limited set of possibilities.

That would answer your question for 90% of the cases.

However, in Portuguese we also use “qual” in some questions without a limited set of answers.
The most common example would be “Qual é o seu nome?” for “What’s your name?”.
The person is not asking “Among this fixed list of names, which one is yours?”, but we still use “Qual” in this case.
I don’t know the reason for that and would even say it’s technically incorrect. Anyway, you will never hear “O que é o seu nome?” instead.
Some people say “Como é o seu nome?” (Literally translated to: “How is your name like?") which would be more correct.

Well, after all, I think this is something you get with practice, but sticking to the grammar rule that “que” = “what” and “qual” = “which” can already make your life easier. =)

Let me know if this answers your question.

See ya!


Thanks for getting back so quick and thank you for the help!

1 Like

Happy to help!