é que portuguese questions

Using “é que” in European Portuguese Questions

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…? 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.

Examples

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.
    • Como é que te chamas? What is your name?inf. – Literal: What is it that you call yourself?
  • 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?

 

Comments:

  • I hear the phrase Como é que te chamas? when a portuguese person is asking another Portuguese person what the name of something is in English. oe even just “Como é que te nome”?

    • “Como é que te chamas?” means “What’s your name?” (or more literally, “How are you called?”). To ask what something is called in English, there are other better options, such as “Como é que [isto/isso/aquilo] se chama?” (What’s the name of [this/that]?) 🙂

  • i think it would be helpful to have the audio on these phrases since the “e que” (sorry I can’t figure out how to get the accent marks on my computer) is such a difficult combination to pronounce the way fluent speakers do it.

    • Thanks for your message! Yes we’re working on adding audio to these. We record the audio in batches, so sometimes the articles are posted ahead of time with just written examples, and then we add in audio later. (P.S. Guide to Typing Accents )

  • I’m a little confused about pronunciation. I’ve noticed that “que” followed by a word beginning with a vowel is pronounced “kee” as opposed to “kuh” when followed by a word starting with a consonant. Is this a general pronunciation rule and if so how closely should it be followed? Or am I imagining it 😀 ?

    • No, that’s well spotted and accurate, you’re not imagining it 🙂 You can think of it as a general rule of thumb, that when you have two vowels together (at the end of a word and at the start of the next one), the pronunciation of the first vowel can be affected. This also depends on how fast you’re talking.

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