Confused about que and qual

I believe que translates to what and qual to which. However, in the restaurant & cafes unit, there are two phrases that confuse me…

Quais são os pratos do dia? - as expected, quais is used because there is a limited number of dishes of the day, so they can be enumerated. However…

Que pratos recomenda? - why should this not be quais instead of que? Presumably the question is about which dishes from the finite number of dishes on offer at the restaurant.

In a similar vein, but from an earlier unit, Qual é a duração do ciclo? - presumably there can be an infinite number of durations, so why is it qual rather than que?

Or am I overthinking this and is it simply a matter of the words colloquially being used somewhat interchangeably?


According to infopédia, qual means which, or what, and que means what, or which.

I’ve been hoping for some time for that flash of light that makes all clear, but it has never arrived. I decided that this was an instance where not knowing what word to use in which circumstance did not matter.

@Tomas, que is our usual preference when followed directly by a noun, in which case it acts as an interrogative determiner. Qual is preferably followed by the verb ser or by de + noun/pronoun.

  • Que estrela é aquela?
  • Qual é aquela estrela?
  • Que livro é o teu?
  • Qual dos livros é o teu?


Great, that’s just the kind of real world advice that I was looking for (and at which you excel). It is surprisingly difficult to get that level of info from books.


Obrigado @Joseph that makes it far easier to understand.

You didn’t say anything about quais. Is it used when you would use que but the noun is plural?

@pauladwg, quais is the plural of qual, so it falls under the same general patterns.

Thanks Joseph. So is quais also the plural of que? One of the sentences in the lessons is ‘Quais são os teus planos?’, ‘What are your plans?’. I never thought of What as also having a plural version.

@pauladwg, que doesn’t have a plural, it’s invariable. If you switched that sentence to singular, you would get qual, not que: Qual é o teu plano? → Quais são os teus planos?

This is an example of a context where qual (or quais) might be translated as what :slight_smile:

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