Index:1. Quoi ?2. Quoi : with a preposition3. Quoi in French expressions4. Quoi for fun with songs5. Quoi in a nutshell : four sentences to get you started

Quoi is best used in informal questions.

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Quoi ? = What ? (When you didn’t understand something.)Tu viens ou quoi ? = Are you coming or what?Quoi de neuf ? = What’s new? (Very common question for French small talk!)C’est quoi ? = What is it? (informal French)

In your French lessons in school, you probably learned that “What is it?” is Qu’est-ce que c’est ? It’s correct, of course! But Qu’est-ce que c’est ? is longer and more formal than “C’est quoi ?” – so this is the one we use in everyday spoken French!

In general, French people usually don’t use “Qu’est-ce que” to start a question, by the way. We just take the affirmative sentence (the answer) and add “quoi ?” at the end, where we want the answer.

Qu’est-ce que tu veux ? = What do you want ? (correct or formal French)= Tu veux quoi ? (informal everyday French)

Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire ? = What does it mean?= Ça veut dire quoi ? (informal everyday French)


When you didn’t hear something, try using “Pardon ?” (= Sorry?) or “Excusez-moi ?” (= Excuse me?) instead of “Quoi ?” They’re less colloquial, but more elegant!

2. Quoi : with a preposition

In correct, formal French, Quoi is used in questions after a preposition. Like à, par, vers… In this case, French people often put “quoi” at the end of the question instead, in everyday language.

For example:À quoi est-ce que tu penses ? / À quoi penses-tu ? = What are you thinking about?→ Je pense à = I’m thinking about = Tu penses à quoi ? (same question, but in informal everyday French!)

Par quoi veux-tu commencer ? = What do you want to start with?= Tu veux commencer par quoi ? (informal everyday French)

A special preposition here is pour (= for).In French, “why” is pourquoi, and “what for” is… also pourquoi. Or sometimes, pour quoi (literally “what for.”)

Pourquoi c’est comme ça ? = Why is it that way? What is it that way for?C’est pour quoi ? = What are you calling for? (on the phone)

You don’t have to remember all of this! But at least you won’t be too confused when it comes up. Later in this lesson, you’ll find the only four first sentences you need to start using Quoi right away.

Oh arrête… Ça va, quoi ! = Oh stop it… It’s OK, that’s it. or It’s as simple as that.

Using quoi at the end of a sentence is a colloquial French filler word. It doesn’t translate well, but it’s used to mean “I don’t care. / In short / And that’s all. / It’s simple, let’s not dive into it too much, it’s as simple as that…”

Il est encore en retard ? Bon, il viendra pas, quoi. = He’s late again? Well, he’s not coming, in short.Ce film est vraiment… génial, quoi. = This movie is really… well, fantastic, I mean.Oh, arrête de râler. J’ai juste fait une petite erreur, quoi. = Oh, stop grumbling. I only made a small mistake, that’s all.

Quoi also comes in: Et puis quoi encore ! This French exclamation literally means And then what again? It means something like “That’s too much,” “It’s the last straw.”

And in the dismissive: “N’importe quoi.” = whatever / nonsense / random stuff.

Pff… N’importe quoi. = Pff… nonsense.

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Je connais pas les règles, je fais n’importe quoi. = I don’t know the rules, I’m just doing things at random.

Other French expressions with quoi :

Un je-ne-sais-quoi = a very subtle thing, a feeling I can’t describeIl n’y a pas de quoi ! / “Ya pas d’quoi !” = There’s no need (to thank me), you’re welcome!