It’s a question almost as old as time itself–is it que or queue? Or maybe it’s cue. The good news is that all three options are real words. The bad news is that they’re not interchangeable and you need to know the difference. In fact, one of them really only works if you’re speaking Spanish.
If you’re looking to use a queue management system in your stores, the first thing to know is whether you’re spelling queue correctly. You don’t want to fall at the first hurdle because of a lousy misspelling. So, without further ado, let’s clear a few things up.
Que vs Queue
Whether you should spell it as queue or que ultimately depends on the context. For instance, if you’re trying to talk about people waiting in line, the word is queue. (“Louise waited in a virtual queue to speak to a fashion expert”).
The word queue originates from the Old French word cue, coe or queue, translating as “tail”. It’s easy to see how we reached the phrase “queueing in line” then, although “queueing in tail” would admittedly have been more fun.
Qué, however, is the Spanish word for “what”. Que is also an abbreviation for Quebec. That said, these likely aren’t the words you’re looking for unless you’re trying to showcase your world knowledge. Que is a homophone, meaning that it’s a word that sounds like many other words, even though the spelling is different.
How do you spell “queue”?
By now, you likely already know how to spell queue (q-u-e-u-e) when you’re describing a line of people waiting in line. However, things can get complicated again if you’re trying to use the -ing suffix.
For example, you may be understandably tempted to write something like, “I’ve been queueing at the bank for a long time”. Fortunately, this isn’t wrong per se–it’s just the British English way of spelling the word.
If you want to use the traditionally American spelling, it’s queuing.
Cue vs queue
Another common point of confusion is the difference between cue and queue. To be clear, although they sound the same, they have entirely different meanings. Essentially, a cue is usually a signal to do something. For example, you might give a friend a cue or a look to discreetly and wordlessly tell them to stop speaking.
Bottom line, cue and queue aren’t interchangeable words either.
Recapping the que vs queue vs cue debacle
Admittedly, that’s a lot of queuing for one day so to wrap things up, we’ll leave you with this roundup:
A line of people waiting for service.
“The shopping assistant asked everyone to queue up near the counter.”
An abbreviation for Quebec or the Spanish for “what?”
A signal to do something.
“Miranda shot David a look. He took his cue to leave.”
Now you know how to use queue or que in a sentence, why not take it to the next level and find out what a queue management system is.