The difference between QUÉ and CUÁL is probably one of those things my students struggle the most. This is because both can be translated as “what” and “which” but, unlike English, they are not interchangeable. Let´s see some tips that I think will help you:
Qué can be translated like which and what as we have said below, it doesn’t change and can be used in two ways:
- Followed by a noun (cuál can never be followed by a noun):
¿Qué trabajo haces? (What work do you do?).
¿Qué hora es? (What time is it?).
¿Qué música te gusta más? (Which music do you like the most?).
- Without a noun to ask for general information:
¿Qué es esto? (What is this?).
¿Qué prefieres comprar? (What do you prefer to buy?).
¿Qué sucedió ayer? (What did happen yesterday?).
Cuál has a plural “cuáles” and both are used without a noun to ask for more specific information.
- When there is a choice:
¿Cuál es el mejor? ¿Cuál? (Which is the best? Which one?).
¿Cuáles prefieres? ¿Cuáles? (Which do you prefer? Which ones?).
¿Cuál es tu dirección? (What is your address?).
- As a pronoun meaning which one(s):
¿Cuál de ellos te gusta más? (Which of them you like the most?).
¿Cuál de estos chicos es el novio de Marta? (Which of these guys is Marta’s boyfriend?).
Summarizing the main difference between qué and cuál/cuáles is that qué can be followed by a noun or a verb but cuál/cuáles can only be followed by a verb (usually ser (to be) or preferir (to prefer), or the preposition de (of) followed by a pronoun or a noun.
I hope you can understand now better the difference between QUÉ and CUÁL, but please contact you tutor with any question you have Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet? Anyway, practice makes perfect so some quizzes about qué and cuál will be a good start, just click on the link.