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Che as "what"

We've talked about the short word che in previous lessons. There are so many different uses for the word! But in this lesson, we'll look at when it means "what." It's a kind of abbreviated version of che cosa (what thing). 


In a recent episode of Provaci ancora, prof!, Camilla's detective friend is worried about some sleuthing she has done on her own. He asks:

Che hai fatto? Che hai toccato? Che hai preso?

What did you do? What did you touch? What did you take?

Caption 61, Provaci ancora prof! S2E4 L'amica americana - Part 15

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He could have said:

Che cosa hai fatto? Che cosa hai toccato? Che cosa hai preso?


and it would have meant the same thing. 

Oh, allora, che hai saputo?

Oh, so, what have you found out?

Caption 23, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 12

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In the following example, we see both versions:

Ma che è successo? Che cos'è questo sangue?

But what happened? What is this blood?

Caption 37, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 15

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Ma che dici?

But what are you saying?

Caption 47, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP1 - Part 15

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Another way to say this is:

Ma che cosa stai dicendo (but what are you saying)? 

 We have (at least) three choices for saying "what."

Che dirà la gente?

What will people say?

Caption 30, Moscati, l'amore che guarisce EP 2 - Part 3

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We can also leave out the che and only use cosa:


Cosa dirà la gente (what will people say)? 


Or we can use both and say:

Che cosa dirà la gente (what will people say)?


Keep your eyes and ears open for che, che cosa, and cosa, all meaning "what!"


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