I am aware of the question Are "che", "che cosa" and "cosa" interchangeable in simple "what questions"?, however it does not answer directly this special use case.

I was recently learning the phrase "What are our efforts for?" in Duolingo, and I answered "Per che sono i nostri sforzi?" Duolingo was not happy and corrected me to "Per cosa sono i nostri sforzi?"

My question is: in the use together with per, in the meaning of what for, can I use all the three Italian "what-alternatives", or is only per cosa correct?

  1. Per che sono i nostri sforzi?
  2. Per cosa sono i nostri sforzi?
  3. Per che cosa sono i nostri sforzi?
  • Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 12:22
  • 2
    @Hachi: I've found this example: "Per chi e per che si vota domani?". But I would also like to have an answer to this question because I'm under the impression of having found "per che" very rarely. Maybe the problem is that, in oral speech, "per che ...?" can be confused with "perché ...?", which have different meaning?
    – Charo
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 21:43
  • 1
    But, @Hachi, "per che si vota domani?" has a different meaning of "perché si vota domani?".
    – Charo
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 22:16
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    This is precisely what I have said in my previous comment, @Hachi. And I cannot see any grammatical reason why "per che si vota domani?" should be not allowed, but it could be that such construction isn't really used. For this reason, I would find an answer to this question also helpful to me.
    – Charo
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 6:51
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    @Hachi it's not ungrammatical it's simply confusing (with perché) and probably avoided for this reason. I wouldn't for sure use it, but I'm from northern Italy and the use of "che" for "che cosa" is in general more central/southern, so can't say how common it is. Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 10:40

1 Answer 1


The three sentences are grammatically equivalent.

However, the interrogative pronoun che is very frequently reinforced with cosa; however, che cosa is often simplified into cosa in spoken language.

Why the pleonastic cosa is attached to che? Quite likely because it underlines the interrogative role of che, which has several other functions in Italian.

In the spoken Tuscan language that Manzoni studied for his definitive edition of “I promessi sposi”, dropping the che was frequent and Manzoni removed the che in most instances. One can find just che as interrogative pronoun in the novel, but only in narrations or when said by high level people: Manzoni wanted common people in his novel to speak like common people in Tuscany at his time.

Why is Duolingo correcting your grammatically correct sentence? Because the form with just che doesn't belong to current commonly spoken Italian, where che cosa or cosa would be used. In this case, per che may be confused with the interrogative perché. Not the specific case, where perché would be meaningless; but per che si vota oggi? (found in the comments) is very different from perché si vota oggi?.

This doesn't imply that you cannot use che in that or other contexts. Depending on the Italian region you're in, you can hear any of che vuoi?, che cosa vuoi? or cosa vuoi?, even by the same speaker in different contexts.

See http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/cosa-o-che-cosa-che_%28La-grammatica-italiana%29/ for more information on che/che cosa/cosa.

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