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1 How do I ask questions in

French?
There are a number of ways of forming questions in French and the ins and outs of
some of them are rather complicated. But 99 per cent of the time, you don't need the
complicated forms. Here are some simple rules of thumb to get you through.

2 The simple case: questions in informal


speech
In relaxed spoken French (i.e. probably in about 95% of usage), the following is
generally all you need to remember:

To form a yes-no question (i.e. one that can be answered by 'yes' or 'no'), you
just need to put est-ce que at the beginning of the sentence:

est-ce que tu travailles? do you work?


est-ce que tu fais a demain? are you doing it tomorrow?
est-ce que tu as des frres et soeurs? have you got any brothers and sisters?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification

You can also form a yes-no question simply by keeping the same words as in
the equivalent affirmative sentence but by saying the final syllable on a rising
pitch:

tu travailles? do you work?


tu fais a demain? are you doing it tomorrow?
tu as des frres et soeurs? have you got any brothers and sisters?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification

To form a partial question (who..., when..., where... etc) you just need to put
the appropriate French question word (quand, o, qui) at the end of the
sentence.

tu pars quand? when are you leaving?


tu vas o? where are you going?
tu travailles avec qui? who do you work with?
tu fais quoi? what are you doing?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification

Notes

It is also often possible to use est-ce que with partial questions and that is the normal
way to use pourquoi:

quand est-ce que tu pars? when are you leaving?


o est-ce que tu vas ? where are you going?
pourquoi est-ce que tu ne viens pas? why aren't you coming?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification
The construction qu'est-ce que... (and not quoi est-ce que...) is also a very common
way of asking what... questions:
qu'est-ce que tu fais? what are you doing?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification
When the question would begin with a preposition, it's less usual to use est-ce que.
So one would tend to say tu travailles avec qui? rather than %avec qui est-ce que
tu travailles?.

4 More complex cases: formal speech and


writing
In formal speech and writing:

Putting the question word at the end of the sentence can often sound too
informal..

The est-ce que construction can sound a bit long-winded in written French.

A more usual way of forming a question in formal French is to use inversion.

Inversion

In formal French, it is possible and usual to form a question by inverting the order of
the subject and the verb. In English, most verbs require 'do' support: do you work? In
French, no extra verb is required, but to ensure life isn't too easy, there are other
complications instead:

When a third person singular pronoun and verb are inverted, an extra -t- may
need to be inserted.

If the subject is a noun phrase, there are situations where it cannot be


directly inverted and a corresponding subject pronoun must be introduced.

If the subject is je, the inverted form is often not possible at all!

Inversion with il, elle, on

These third person pronouns all begin with a vowel. When the verb is placed before
one of these pronouns, a -t- sound will always occur between the verb and the
pronoun. If the spelling of the verb doesn't already end in a t sound (either spelt -t or
-d), then one is added explicitly:

prend-il?
finit-il?
voulait-elle?
travaille-t-il?
mange-t-elle?
couvre-t-on?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification

Noun phrase subject

When the subject is a noun phrase (i.e. not a pronoun), it may, depending on the
circumstances:

Be inverted directly with the subject (I will call this the 'basic form'):
o travaille ton pre?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification

Be placed before the verb with an extra pronoun insreted; the pronoun and
verb are then inverted. I will call this the 'extended form':
o ton pre travaille-t-il?
Suggest a change / proposez une modification

The following table gives an indication of when each form is possible, with examples.
Situation

Basic form

Extended form

Yes-no question

---

Le chien a-t-il mang


aujourd'hui?

With short question


word

O travaille votre
pre?

O votre pre
travaille-t-il?

Unusual

Comment Madame
Thatcher est-elle
devenue premier
ministre?

With longer question


word

Where inversion would


put noun phrase
--subject and object next
to each other

O votre pre prend-il


ses vtements?

Inversion with je

Inversion with je is reasonably common with a handful of common short verbs or in the
odd set expression:
dois-je faire une rservation?
puis-je faire une rservation?

suis-je oblig de faire une rservation?


il est... comment dirais-je?... un peu stupide he is... how shall I put it...? a bit stupid
Suggest a change / proposez une modification
Other than that, inversion with je occurs only in literary usage

http://www.french-linguistics.co.uk/grammar/questions.shtml

9 Converting a declarative
sentence into an interrogative
one
How do French people convert a declarative sentence into an interrogative one?

10 1. Using Est-ce-que...
Est-ce que... is very commonly used.
Tu participes toutes nos runions.
You take part in all our meetings.
Est-ce que tu participes toutes nos runions ?
Do you take part in all our meetings?
Il joue au football.
He plays soccer.
Est-ce qu'il joue au football ?
Does he play soccer?
Marie aime la peinture.
Marie is fond of painting.
Est-ce que Marie aime la peinture ?
Is Marie fond of painting?
Nos amis prparent le dner.
Our friends are preparing the dinner.
Est-ce que nos amis prparent le dner ?
Do our friends prepare the dinner?

11 2. Reverting the subject and the verb


Tu participes toutes nos runions.
You take part in all our meetings.
becomes:
Participes-tu toutes nos runions ?
Do you take part in all our meetings?
Note: a dash must be included between the verb and the subject.
Il joue au football.
He plays soccer.
Joue-t-il au football ?
Does he play soccer?

Note: add -t- between the verb and the subject when the verb ends with a vowel and
the subject begins with a vowel.
Marie aime la peinture.
Marie is fond of painting.
Marie aime-t-elle la peinture ?
Is Marie fond of painting?
Note: You can't say : "Aime Marie la peinture ?" Instead, replace the firstname by the
corresponding pronoun and keep the firstname at the beginning of the phrase. Here is
a last example with the same rule:
Nos amis prparent le dner.
Our friends are preparing the dinner.
Nos amis prparent-ils le dner ?
Do our friends prepare the dinner?

12 3. Changing your voice tone


Even easier! Just add a question mark and change your voice tone.
Let's get the examples we used in the previous pages:
Tu participes toutes nos runions.
You take part in all our meetings.
Tu participes toutes nos runions ?
Do you take part in all our meetings?
Il joue au football.
He plays soccer.
Il joue au football ?
Does he play soccer?
Marie aime la peinture.
Marie is fond of painting.
Marie aime la peinture ?
Is Marie found of painting?
Nos amis prparent le dner.
Our friends are preparing the dinner.
Nos amis prparent le dner ?
Do our friends prepare the dinner?

13 Pourquoi (why)
"pourquoi" means why. Here are examples that will help you understand how to use
"pourquoi".
Note that the subject and verb orders are reversed.

Pourquoi vas-tu la piscine ?


Why do you go to the swimming pool?
Pourquoi ne venez-vous pas cette fte ?
Why don't you come to this party?
Pourquoi est-il en colre ?
Why is he angry?

14 Comment (how)
"comment" means how. Here are examples that will help you undertand how to use
"comment". It is the same as in English:
Comment vont-elles l'cole ?
How do they go to school?
Comment vas-tu ?
How are you?

(idiom: Comment a va ?

15 O (where)
"o" means where. Here are examples that will help you understand how to use "o".
It is the same as in English:
There is a grave accent on "o" to tell the difference with "ou" (or) but the
pronunciation remains the same.
O habitez-vous ?
Where do you live?
O partez-vous en vacances ?
Where do you go on holidays?
D'o viennent-ils ?
Where are they from?

16 Quand (when)
"quand" means when. Here are examples that will help you understand how to use
"quand". It is the same as in English:
Quand es-tu parti ?
When did you leave?
Quand reviendras-tu ?
When will you be back?
Quand a eu lieu la bataille de Waterloo ?
When did the battle of Waterloo take place?

17 Qui (who)
"qui" means who. Here are examples that will help you understand how to use "qui". It
is the same as in English:

Qui est le propritaire de la voiture ?


Who is the owner of the car?
Qui est-ce ?
Who is it?
Qui est cette femme ?
Who is that woman?
Qui peut dire une chose pareille ?
Who can say such a thing?

http://www.frenchtutorial.com/en/learn-french/interrogative/qui

Want to know something? Whether you're working, traveling, learning, or just


trying to learn more about someone, questions are an essential part of any
conversation. This lesson will teach you four different ways to ask questions in
French.
1. Est-ce que
Est-ce que, literally "is it that," can be placed at the beginning of any
affirmative sentence to turn it into a question:
Est-ce que vous dansez ?

Do you dance?
Est-ce que tu veux voir un film ?
Do you want to see a movie?
Est-ce qu'il est arriv ?
Has he arrived?
Place any question words* in front of est-ce que:
Quand est-ce que tu veux partir ?
When do you want to leave?
Pourquoi est-ce qu'il a menti ?
Why did he lie?
Quel livre est-ce que vous cherchez ?
Which book are you looking for?
2. Inversion
A more formal way to ask questions is with inversion: invert the conjugated
verb and subject pronoun and join them with a hyphen:
Dansez-vous ?
Do you dance?
Veux-tu voir un film ?
Do you want to see a movie?
Est-il arriv ?
Has he arrived?
Again, place any interrogative words at the beginning of the question:
Quand veux-tu partir ?
When do you want to leave?
Pourquoi a-t-il menti ?**

Why did he lie?


Quel livre cherchez-vous ?
Which book are you looking for?
You can use inversion to ask negative questions***
Ne dansez-vous pas ?
Don't you dance?
N'est-il pas encore arriv ?
Hasn't he arrived yet?
http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/questions.htm