French Interrogatives

Overview

Knowing how to ask questions is essential for making plans, shopping, traveling, getting to know people, and any other activity that requires obtaining information. There are two different types of questions, and different ways to ask each type.

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It’s important to know how to ask questions in conversations. In the table below, take a look at how to say some of the most common question words in French.

FrenchEnglish
Qui?Who?
Quoi?What?
Où?Where?
Quand?When?
Comment?How?
Combien?How much?

Question Phrases:

These question phrases often start at the beginning of sentences.

Qu’est-ce que…          →        What is it that…        

Qui est-ce que…         →        Who is it that…

Est-ce que…               →        Is it that…

Examples:

Qu’est-ce que vous regardez? → What are you watching?

Qui est-ce que tu invites? → Who is it that you are inviting?

Est-ce que la fleur est morte? → Is it that the flower died? / Did the flower die?

Inversion

Using inversion to ask questions means the subject and verb of the sentence switch places and are connected by a hyphen. Take a look at these examples:

Tu aimes danser?                                Aimes-tu danser?

Do you like to danse?                         Do you like to dance?

Vous préférez le café ou le thé?          Préférez-vous le café ou le thé?

Do you prefer coffee or tea?               Do you prefer coffee or tea?

Inversion is not always necessary in a sentence. If you add a voice inflection to the end of your statement, it reveals that you are asking a question.

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Additional Topics

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French The Pronoun "en"

The adverbial pronoun en can replace a quantity, a place, or the object of the preposition de. This little word has many possible translations: any, one, some, about it / them, of it / them.

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The French Pronoun Y

Y replaces or refers back to an adverb phrase of place or of location. In its simplest form, it means just there (in the meaning of in that place) It can also mean in something, on something, under something, beside something, etc.

Who is it
French Relative Pronouns Qui vs Que

In French, direct object pronouns are used for verbs which aren’t followed by prepositions: Me (me), te (you), nous (us), vous (you), le (him or it), la (her or it), les (them). For example, Je vois le garçon. Je le vois. (I see the boy. I see him).

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
Reading:
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
Listening:
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.