When to use “quê”
Quê What, that, which is generally used at the end of a sentence/clause, whether or not it’s an interrogative one.
You can’t end a sentence with que what, that, which so the choice is easy in these cases.
Não tens de quê! You’re welcome!
Disseste o quê? You said what?
Quê can also appear in other parts of a sentence, but that’s pretty much limited to the following two cases:
- Sentences/clauses without a verb or with an impersonal verb in the infinitive:
- Sentences/clauses where it’s used as a noun:
And guess what? Quê is the exception. Memorize the few situations in which quê is used and you already know that, in every other case, the choice will probably be between que or o que.
When to use “que” and “o que”
Optional to use o before que:
- At the start of an interrogative sentence/clause where que is used to mean “what” and is not followed by a noun. If you can mentally replace que with que coisa what thing in an interrogative sentence, you should also be able to use o optionally.
Mandatory to use o before que:
- When o is used as a demonstrative pronoun. If you can mentally replace o with aquilo that (a more recognizable demonstrative pronoun), you know that the o cannot be removed from the sentence.
Not recommended to use o before que:
- When none of the above apply! Que can be used in so many different ways on its own that this list would be endless if we tried to cover each case. Here are a few examples:
- Que é que fizeste? What did you do? – Only the first “Que” can be optionally replaced by “O que”.
- Que coisa é essa? What thing is that? – Here, because que is immediately followed by a noun, there should not be an o before it. Your only other option would be to flip the sentence: O que é essa coisa?What is that thing?
- O carro que nós comprámos é bonito. The car that we bought is beautiful.
- Mesmo que eu tivesse o tempo, não teria a energia. Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t have the energy.