French Grammar: «Questions»
In this article you will discover how to ask a question in French. Feel free to directly edit this page if you think it can be improved.
In French, there are several ways of asking a question, each with its own particularities, according to the "level of language" we use.
Interrogative structures[edit | edit source]
There are 4 types of interrogative structures:
- direct questioning
- reverse questioning
- questioning with "Est-ce que"
- direct question with particle at the end
Direct questioning[edit | edit source]
This is done simply by intonation, taking an affirmative phrase, and placing the end the question mark: "?"
- Vous avez une chambre → Vous avez une chambre ? (You have a room → Do you have a room?)
This form is normally used in the familiar language.
Reverse questioning[edit | edit source]
This type of questioning is made by inverting the subject and verb. It is generally used in formal language.
- Vous avez une chambre → Avez-vous une chambre ? (You have a room → Do you have a room?)
For phrasal verbs, the order of the subject is inverted with the auxiliary.
- Tu as mangé des escargots. → As-tu mangé des escargots ? (You've eaten snails → Have you eaten your snails?)
We must consider 3 rules:
1) To make the inversion, it always puts a hyphen between the personal pronoun and the verb.
2) In the 3rd person of singular, with "il", "elle", "on" (pronouns, starting with a vowel), if the verb ends in a vowel, we add a "-t" between verb and pronoun to make the pronunciation easier.
- Il parle français → Parle-t-il français ? (He speaks French → Does he speak French?)
3) If the question does not begin with a personal pronoun, start with the subjet, the verb and the pronoun like in the example below:
- Cette femme dit la vérité → Cette femme dit-elle la vérité ? (The woman tells the truth → Does this woman tell the truth?)
Questioning with "Est-ce que"[edit | edit source]
To avoid inversion, we mainly use, in French, interrogation with "est-ce que", which is the most common form.
- Vous avez une chambre → Est-ce que vous avez une chambre ?
- Tu as mangé des escargots. → Est-ce que tu as mangé des escargots ?
- Il parle français → Est-ce qu’il parle français ?
The form "est-ce que" does not actually mean anything. It only serves to indicate that we are asking a question.
The structure, therefore is:
"EST-CE QUE/QU’" + Subject + Verb + Complement + "?"
This type of question is used in all situations. It is considered proper and formal. We must ALWAYS USE IT.
Direct question with particle at the end[edit | edit source]
In the affirmative sentence, it is only of special that we will put the interrogative particle at the end of the sentence, and not at the beginning, as we will see later in dealing with interrogative particles:
Place the particle at the end of the affirmative sentence :
- Tu pars en vacances QUAND ? (When do you go on vacation?)
This form is normally used in the familiar language.
Interrogative particles[edit | edit source]
Before moving to see the latest type of question, we will see different question words we can use to be more precise in our questions. These particles are placed in front of the phrase, regardless of the type of question used.
Here is an example with the particle "OÙ" (where)
- OÙ tu passes tes vacances ?
- Tu passes tes vacances OÙ ?
- OÙ passes-tu tes vacances ?
- OÙ est-ce que tu passes tes vacances ?
(Where do you spend your vacation?)
Interrogative particle + Interrogative phrase + "?"
The different interrogative particles are:
Qui[edit | edit source]
To inquire about a person (who?)
- Qui vient ce soir ?
- Qui est-ce qui vient ce soir ?
(Who is coming tonight?)
Que[edit | edit source]
To inquire about a thing (what?)
- Que manges-tu ?
- Qu’est-ce que tu manges ?
(What are you eating?)
NB: the particle becomes QUOI at the end of sentence and before preposition
- De quoi est-ce que tu parles ?.
- Tu dis quoi ?
(What are you saying?)
Oú[edit | edit source]
To inquire about a place (where?)
- Oú allez-vous ?
- Oú est-ce que vous allez ?
(Where are you going?)
And also. "from where" : D’où ?
Quand[edit | edit source]
To inquire about TIME (when?)
- Quand arrivent-ils ?
- Quand est-ce qu’ils arrivent ?
(When do they arrive?)
Comment[edit | edit source]
To inquire about how to do something (how?)
- Comment vas-tu ?
- Comment est-ce que tu vas ?
(How are you doing?)
Combien[edit | edit source]
To inquire about the quantity (how much?)
- Combien as-tu payé ?
- Combien est-ce que tu as payé ?
(How much did you pay?)
- Combien de fois est-tu allé voir ce concert ? (How many times did you go to this concert?)
- Combien d’heures faut-il pour aller à Paris ? (How many hours does it take to go to Paris?)
Pourquoi[edit | edit source]
To inquire about the reason for something (why?)
- Pourquoi êtes-vous ici ?
- Pourquoi est-ce que vous êtes ici ?
(Why are you here?)
INTERROGATIVE WORDS & ADJECTIVES[edit | edit source]
|WE ASK ABOUT||WORD||EXAMPLES|
|Place||OÙ / WHERE||
Where are you going ?
|Time||QUAND / WHEN||
When are you leaving?
|How||COMMENT / HOW||
What's his name?
|Cause||POURQUOI / WHY||
Why do you come?
|Quantity||COMBIEN / HOW MUCH||
How much do you want?
|Person||QUI / WHO||
Who do you invite?
|Object||QUE – QUOI / WHAT||
What do you study?
|Aim||POURQUOI / WHY||
Why insn't he happy?
|QUEL – QUELLE – QUELS – QUELLES||
What present do you prefer? / What icecream do you like? / What books do you prefer?/ What cities to you like?
VIDEOS[edit | edit source]