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Does Spanish allow post-head emotive modifiers such as ¿Qué coño? ¿Qué mierda? and ¿Qué cojones? after interrogative words in all cases?

Specifically is it possible when cual / que are followed by a noun, as in qué cojones lapiz rompiste?

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  • Your examples show it does. I really don't understand what is the question here.
    – DGaleano
    Jun 10, 2019 at 16:37
  • I don't speak Spanish, so I'm looking for confirmation because, in English, you can't say what the hell pencil did you break. I take it, then, that this is perfectly grammatical. Jun 10, 2019 at 16:44
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    Ok. I get it now. Saying the sentence "que cojones lápiz rompiste" doesn't sound very natural. If what you are trying to say is "did you break the f@@king pencil?" a more grammatically correct expression would be "¿rompiste el puto lápiz?"
    – DGaleano
    Jun 10, 2019 at 18:10
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    I think it doesn't (at least no in all cases), although more and more often I hear stuff like "esto es puto peligroso" which I believe is some sort of anglicism, translating directly from "this is _fucking_dangerous"). I know it is not exactly your case "cual/que + noun" but I just wanted to mention.
    – Diego
    Jun 10, 2019 at 21:54
  • @Diego about "puto peligroso", the Spanish Royal Academy has something to say...
    – Charlie
    Jun 12, 2019 at 11:13

1 Answer 1

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I would say this kind of emphasis is only possible in a couple borderline cases.

First, the syntax. In sentences like

  • ¿Qué mierda hiciste?
  • ¿Qué cojones te pasa?

there's a free slot right after the interrogative word, that can be filled with a short expletive. This sounds natural in questions with qué because qué can also be followed by a noun phrase. It's not the same, because the expletive doesn't have to agree with the verb (in ¿Qué cojones te pasa? the expletive is plural but the verb is in the singular), but it sounds a bit like that.

An expletive can also be inserted after other interrogatives, like dónde or cómo; in those cases its function is clear: it's basically a verbal exclamation point. It doesn't agree with anything, it's just something you drop there somewhere.

One borderline case is qué mierda de + noun. One could maybe say mierda de is an expletive.

  • ¿Qué mierda de comida es ésta?
  • ¿A qué mierda de escuela fuiste?

Mierda de + noun is an expletive in the sense that it emphasizes the whole sentence. Note the difference with the reversed pattern noun + de mierda:

  • ¿Qué comida de mierda es ésta?
  • ¿A qué escuela de mierda fuiste?

In the first two sentences you are mainly expressing shock or disbelief while also disqualifying the food or the school; in the last two you are actually asking about the food or the school. In English you'd translate both of these, I think, as "What kind of shitty (whatever)...?".

I'd say puto/a is another borderline case in questions like

  • ¿Qué puto lápiz rompiste?
  • ¿Qué puta excusa vas a darme?

Here you have a regular adjective agreeing with the noun it modifies, but at the same time it works like a true expletive: it doesn't mean anything, it just emphasizes the point of the whole question.

I don't think there are many more possible examples, but it depends on dialect, I guess.

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