As humans, we have so many questions that arouse our curiosity. With every question, we learn something new.
Questions are an essential part of everyday conversations. So, let’s learn to ask the right questions in French to buy all the information we need.
The importance of asking a question
To draw the inference to a lot of issues, we require a proper answer. By asking questions we become aware of what is unknown and elevate our understanding of what is already known.
Questions help us to understand people, discover a new place, build relationships, and exchange ideas. Irrespective of the language, questions can be classified into open-ended and closed-ended questions.
Closed-ended questions are simply answered with a yes or a no. On the other hand, open-ended questions provide us with a detailed or in-depth description to think and reflect on the respective topic.
In French, questions can be formed in multiple ways depending upon the formal and informal situations.
Different formats of asking a question
There are five ways to frame a question in French that are comparatively easier to understand and practice. Therefore it is important to know the formation and basic question words to classify their type and facilitate our spoken French.
1. Using interrogative words
The interrogative words are required to phrase the basic questions like who, what, where, why, how, etc. The words are further grouped into 3 categories as follows:
1. Interrogative pronouns– Qui, que/quoi, lequel
Qui(who/whom): It is used to indicate a person. When qui is utilized with a preposition it becomes whom.
Oui veut apprendre le français? (Who wants to learn French?)
À qui tu parles? (To whom are you speaking?)
Que/Quoi(what): It is used to indicate objects or things. When que is utilized with a preposition it holds the same meaning but the word is replaced with quoi. Quoi is also frequently used when we speak informally.
Que veux-tu? (What do you want?)
À quoi tu penses? ( What are you thinking)
In informal situations, you can utilize quoi instead of que.
Tu fais quoi ce weekend? ( What are you doing this weekend?)
Quoi de neuf? (What’s new?)
Lequel is an interrogative pronoun that is often used while referring to things. Moreover, it is used along with the interrogative adjective and is classified into multiple forms similar to “quel“. It is also preceded by the prepositions à, de, or pour.
2. Interrogative adjectives– Quel/Quelle/Quels/Quelles(what/which)
Quel takes up four forms depending upon the gender and quantity of the describing noun. The following four forms can be framed in 3 ways to ask a question.
Quel is used when the noun is masculine singular. Quelle is used when the noun is feminine singular. Quels is used when the noun is masculine plural. Quelles is used when the noun is feminine plural.
They can be used in the middle of the phrase, along with a proposition and a noun, and with the verb “être“.
Tu préfères quel film ?(informal)/ Quel est votre film préféré? (Which movie do you prefer?)
À quelle heure l’avion quitter? (At what time does the plane leave?)
Quels sont les meilleurs parcs de la ville? (What are the best parks in the city?)
Quelles sont vos couleurs préférées? (What are your favorite colors?)
3. Interrogative adverbs– Comment, quand, pourquoi, où, combien(de)
The interrogative adverbs are simple with no hidden rules. Où, combien, and quand can also be followed by a preposition in certain cases.
Comment allez-vous? (How are you?)
Comment ça va? (How are you? / How’s it going)
Quand pars-tu? (When are you leaving?)
Quand commence l’hiver en France? ( When does winter start in France?)
Pourquoi can never be placed at the end of the question.
Pourquoi êtes-vous en retard? (Why are you late?)
Pourquoi voulez-vous apprendre le français? ( Why do you want to learn French?)
Où allez-vous? (Where are you going?)
Où habitez-vous? (Where do you live?)
Combien de (How much/how many)
Ça coûte combien?/C’est combien?(How much is it?)
Combien de pommes voulez-vous? (How many apples do you want?)
2. Using Est-ce que
Est-ce que is the most common form of asking a question and it translates to “is it that…”. Usually, we don’t prefer “is it that..” in front of a question in English.
At times, an exact translation might not sound right or fit well when we compare two languages but that’s why every language is unique.
Questions with est-ce que provide an answer with a simple yes or no predominantly. It is also frequently used with interrogative words.
Qu’est-ce que c’est? (What is it?)
Qu’est-ce que tu fais? (What are you doing?)
Est-ce que vous parlez français? (Do you speak French?/Is it that you speak French?)
Comment est-ce que tu connais cet endroit? (How do you know this place?)
3. Questions with inversion
Inverted questions are found to be more polite and formal. It is formed with a slight alteration in the order of the words. The subject and the verb get shifted or inverted thereby changing a normal statement into a question.
Habitez-vous à Paris? (Do you live in Paris?)
Aimez-vous la poésie française? (Do you like French poems?)
If the subject and the verb have a clash between vowels then the letter “t” is added between the inverted verb and the subject.
Aime-t-elle les chocolats? (Does she like chocolates)
Va-t-on en France ce weekend? (Are we going to France this weekend?)
If the sentence contains a name as a subject then invert the equivalent subject pronoun of that particular noun.
Statement: Peter veut la glace. (Peter wants icecream)
Question: Peter, veut-il la glace?
4. Questions with intonation
Questions with intonation can provide different meanings to a simple sentence. You can state something by raising your pitch at the end to make it a question.
There is no inversion or extra words attached to it. A simple statement is modified by adjusting your tone and it is mostly used in informal conversations
Vous aimez le sport? (You like sports?)
Tu pars demain? ( You are leaving tomorrow?)
5. Using n’est-ce pas
Have you heard of tag questions in English? A short expression or phrase is added to the end of a statement to verify or assure the action.
Example: Isn’t it? Aren’t you? Didn’t you?
In English, the tag questions change accordingly to the specific verb in the sentence whereas, in French, the tag question is n’est-ce pas (is it not) irrespective of the verb.
Ils ont fait leurs devoirs, n’est-ce pas? (They have done their homework, haven’t they?)
Elle ne vient pas, n’est-ce pas? (She is not coming, is she?)
Do you have any questions?
A question is a good way to show your willingness to learn and grow. By knowing the different ways to pose a question in French, you become unstoppable to open new doors and ideas.
So, eliminate your confusion with the right question and ask it out loud to uncover all the hidden secrets in French.