You may have come across é que in a variety of Portuguese 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…? Play normal audio What is…?
- Como é que…? Play normal audio How is…?, What is…?
- Onde é que…? Play normal audio Where is…?
- Quando é que…? Play normal audio 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? Play slow audio Play normal audio What is your name?(inf.)
- Onde estás? Play normal audio Where are you?
- O que acham? Play normal audio What do you think?(plural)
- Como está? Play slow audio Play normal audio How are you?(formal)
- Quando chegas? Play normal audio When do you arrive?