To be able to interact with people in French, you need to know how to ask questions. Assuming that you want to know more about someone, you're lost or are shopping, it's important to have some basic knowledge of the art of questioning.
In this lesson, you will learn how to form questions, the question words that are used, and the types of questions.
1. How to form Questions in French
There are basically 3 ways of asking questions in French: changing the intonation, using Est-ce que, or making an inversion of verb and subject. Let’s take an example to explain this. Here is an affirmative sentence that we will transform into a question.
Affirmative sentence : Tu aimes les légumes. (You like vegetables).
Tu is the subject and Aimes is the verb.
Changing the intonation
You just need to keep the sentence in its initial order (subject+verb) and add a question mark at the end. Only The pronunciation will change. You need to raise your voice at the end of the sentence. Note that this is an informal way of asking questions.
In this case our affirmative sentence becomes : Tu aimes les légumes ?
Using Est-ce que
The phrase Est-ce que is used to ask questions. The order stays the same as in an affirmative sentence (Subject+verb). Est-ce que is placed before the subject.
In our example, the affirmative sentence becomes : Est-ce que tu aimes les légumes ?
Using the inversion
In the previous types of questions, we have seen that the order is Subject + Verb.
In this kind of question, the subject and the verb are inverted. This means that you simply start with the verb followed by the subject.
The sentence Tu aimes les légumes becomes "Aimes-tu les fruits et légumes ?"
Note that the verb and subject must be connected with a hyphen.
When you use the pronouns Il or elle and when the verb ends with a vowel, you have to use a "t" to connect the verb and subject.
Mange t-elle des fruits et légumes ?
Danse -t-il la salsa ?
2. Est-ce que vs Qu’est-ce que
Note that you can ask two types of questions: open questions which give the freedom to the person to answer without guidance and closed questions which can be answered with yes or no.
We use Est-ce que at the beginning of a question when we are expecting a yes or no answer.
Est-ce que tu viens à la fête ? (Are you coming to the party ?))
Est-ce que vous partez en France cet été ? (Are you going to France this summer?)
We use Qu'est-ce que to ask open questions. It is also used at the beginning of the sentence.
Qu’est-ce que tu fais ? (what are you doing?)
Qu’est-ce que tu aimes comme sport ? (What sport do you like?)
To learn more about est-ce que and qu'est-ce que, read this lesson
3. How to make use of French Question words
A question word is a word used to ask a question like in English: When, where, who…?
As seen in the closed questions, you can combine the questions words with Est-ce que and you can also use inversion. Qui (who), Quand(When), Où(where) Comment (how) and Pourquoi(why) are commonly used for asking questions in French.
Questions words are placed at the end of the sentence when using intonation.
Tu es où? (Where are you?
Tu fais quoi ? (What are you doing?)
Tu viens quand ? (When are you coming?)
Tu cherches Qui ? (Who are you looking for?)
They are placed at the beginning of the sentence when using Est-ce que and inversion.
Est-ce que Inversion
Où est-ce que tu es ? Où es-tu ?
Quand est-ce que tu viens en France ? Quand viens-tu en France?
Qu’est-ce que tu fais ? Que fais-tu?
Qui est-ce que tu cherches ? Qui cherches-tu ?