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Sometimes I see "¿Que es eso?" when watching Spanish films. Is it a missprint of "¿Qué es eso?" where they have forgotten the acute on the e or does it mean something else?

  • Just to confirm that both have the same meaning: "What is that?". The use of "Que" in a interrogation without acute is wrong. Look at the answer of DGaleano here spanish.stackexchange.com/a/16676/8972 – Maximus Decimus May 10 '16 at 14:13
  • Yes, it's a typo. Should be Qué instead of Que. – Zenadix May 10 '16 at 16:03
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    It means cheese. They want someone to smile at the camera. (I'm being silly here, cheese is spelled queso ;-). – Brent Washburne May 10 '16 at 19:18
  • @DGaleano. No, look for example: Two friends meet, one of them is carrying a very heavy object - Carlos, eso que estas cargando. ¿Es un computador? - No exactamente, ¿sabes que los equipos de transmisión de electricidad a veces necesitan conectarse a un dispositivo para diagnosticar si están funcionando correctamente? - ¿Que es eso? - Si, sirve para hacer pruebas. Lo llevo a la central eléctrica. – bns May 10 '16 at 21:06
  • Whenever there is the word que without tilde, it means there must be something first. Example: ¿Que es eso? -> ¿Así que es eso? -> So it is that? – ArtEze Sep 20 '16 at 18:12
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The words qué, cuál/es, quién/es, cómo, cuán, cuánto/a/os/as, cuándo, dónde y adónde are written with acute accent (tilde diacrítica) when used in an interrogative or exclamatory manner.

You can read this in RAE,

There is no difference in meaning but when you see any of those words in a question without the accent, it is wrong.

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I'll be the contrarian here.

¿que es eso? is a valid Spanish construction and distinct from ¿qué es eso?

With the accent, the phrase means "What is that?" because qué is an interrogative pronoun. But without the accent, the phrase means something more akin to "You mean it's that?" The word que (no accent) is often used in spoken Spanish to start off phrases without entirely too much rhyme or reason except perhaps to give a stronger link to the previous statement (cf. pues), not unlike English's so.

For example, imagine someone has just described you a person, and someone comes walking around the corner and you think it's that person, but you're a bit incredulous. You'd say, ¿Que es él/ella? and your friend would respond sí/no. If you asked ¿qué es él/ella your friend would just say pues, un ser humano :-) You actually can hear the difference in speech. Without the accent, there are only two stressed syllables and more likely than not, only three syllables in total /'que'se.so/. With the accent, there are three stressed syllables and four total /'que'es'eso/

Now, that all being said, ¿qué es eso? is going to be vastly more common than ¿que es eso?, and so it's probably just a typo.

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  • I always learn from your answers @guifa but I have to ask this. In your /'que'se.so/ example I would say you are not making a real question even if the structure of the sentence looks like a question, so I'd think it could be written like ¡qué es eso! instead of using question marks. If this is correct, this would be an exclamatory sentence and then again according to RAE it would have to have the accent. Am I wrong here? – DGaleano May 10 '16 at 16:57
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    @guifa: I think you are right: if there is an ellipsis at the beginning of the sentence, something like "¿[Dices] que es eso?" or "¿[Me estás diciendo] que es él/ella?", in these cases, que would the be a relative pronoun and wouldn't be accented. – user12422 May 10 '16 at 17:59
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    In the unaccented version, 'que' would be more akin to 'that' than 'what'. I also want to chime in that, as a native speaker, it's incredibly common to see this gaffe, still wrong, though. – J A Terroba May 10 '16 at 20:00
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Should be "¿Qué es eso?", with an acute accent, as explained in DPD:

Qué: Palabra tónica, que debe escribirse con tilde a diferencia del pronombre relativo o de la conjunción que.

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