You may have come across é que in a variety of questions and wondered why these extra words are added. The pair of words is technically optional (the meaning stays the same with or without it), but including é que in Portuguese questions is so common that you should typically default to including it. This would be especially wise for beginners because there are not consistent rules for when it can be left out and excluding it can make certain sentences sound very strange.
Where to add é que
É que appears after the interrogative pronouns and adverbs you learned about previously, for example:
- O que é que…?What is…?
- Como é que…?How is…?, What is…?
- Onde é que…?Where is…?
- Quando é que…?When is…?
The rest of the question stays the same, continuing in subject, verb, object order, just like in English. É que basically translates to is it that, as in, “Where is it that you want to go?” This may sound redundant in English, but it’s perfectly natural in Portuguese.
Let’s see some examples of European Portuguese questions with and without the addition of é que:
- Como te chamas? What is your name?inf.
- Onde estás? Where are you?
- Onde é que estás?Where are you? – Literal: Where is it that you are?
- O que acham?What do you think?plural
- O que é que acham?What do you think? – Literal: What is it that you think?
- Como está? How are you?formal
- Como é que está?How are you?formal – Literal: How is it that you are?
- Quando chegas?When do you arrive?
- Quando é que chegas?When do you arrive? – Literal: When is it that you arrive?