Cuál vs Qué: Key Differences You Need to Know

Cuál vs qué is a topic that often confuses Spanish learners. Qué inquires about definitions, time, explanations, or identifies something. It’s the direct translation of ‘what’. Cuál means ‘what’ when used to ask for personal information and also inquires about preferences (which). Unlike qué, cuál has a plural form

¿Qué te dijo Jean?
What did Jean tell you?

¿Cuál helado quieres?
Which ice cream do you want?

¿Cuáles son los mejores restaurantes y qué tipo de comida venden?
Which are the best restaurants and what type of food do they sell? 

In the following sections, you’ll find more detailed information about when and how to use cuál and qué.

Cuál vs Qué: Key Points

  • ‘Qué’ is the direct translation of ‘what’ and asks about meanings, definitions, explanations, or time
  • It can also be used to identify things or places. In this context, it may be translated as ‘which’. 
  • ‘Qué’ only has a singular form and it can work with nouns and verbs. 
  • In affirmative sentences, qué can be used with adjectives or adverbs to emphasize qualities or react to a situation. 
  • Cuál means ‘what’ when used to ask about personal information, such as name, address, email, phone number, etc. 
  • It means ‘which’ when asking for people’s preferences from a group of things. 
    • It implies a choice between two or more options. 
  • Cuál works with nouns and, as such, it has a plural form

When to  Use Cuál in Spanish

Cuál is the Spanish question word we use to ask people to choose something from a group of things –preferences. 

¿Cuál + (noun) + [conjugated verb]?

¿Cuál vestido te llevaste?
Which dress did you take?

Mayra, ¿cuál de estas blusas te gusta? 
Mayra, which of these blouses do you like? 

Las dos sopas se ven ricas, ¿cuál me recomiendas?
The two soups look delicious, which one do you recommend?

Cuál also identifies things from a larger group:

¿Cuál + [ser conjugated] + [noun]

Giovanna, ¿cuál es tu mochila? 
Giovanna, which one is your backpack?

Disculpa, ¿sabes cuál es el salón de español?
Excuse me, do you know which is the Spanish classroom? 


¿Qué es tu color favorito?
What’s your favorite color?


¿Cuál es tu color favorito?
What’s your favorite color?

On top of asking for choices and personal preferences, in Spanish, cuál also asks for personal information, such as:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Email / Accounts
  • Passwords 

In this context, cuál is always translated as ‘what’:

Naomi, ¿cuál es tu apellido?
Naomi, what’s your last name?

¿Sabes cuál es el número de la pizzería?
Do you know what the pizzeria’s number is?

Si quieres, puedo pasar por ti. ¿Cuál es tu dirección?
If you want, I can pick you up. What’s your address? 

How and When to Use Qué

Unlike cuál, where we expect a choice or personal information, qué inquires broader information. The main function of this question word is to ask for explanations, facts, definitions, and time. 

Because it asks for a wider range of information,  qué works with nouns and conjugated verbs. 

¿A qué hora empezó el partido?
What time did the game start? 

¿Qué van a hacer mañana?
What are you guys going to do tomorrow?

¿Qué son las enchiladas y con qué se comen?
What are enchiladas and what do you eat them with?

Qué also identifies things from a larger group, but it doesn’t imply that a choice needs to be made:

¿Qué película vieron?
What movie did you guys watch? 

Oye, y ¿qué libros estás leyendo? 
Hey, and what books are you reading?

¿Qué tipo de pizza quieres ordenar?
What type of pizza do you want to order? 

Take Note: Even though qué doesn’t have a plural form, it does work with plural nouns.

Watch the Cuál vs Qué Video Lesson

Watch the Spanish Immersion Lesson!
Qué vs cuál is a topic that often confuses many Spanish learners. You can watch the English explanation or opt to test your comprehension skills by watching the Spanish video lesson on Cuál vs Qué.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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