Question Words in French : Qui, Quand, Que, Où, Comment ?

how to ask questions in french using question words qui que ou comment pourquoi quand

A good conversation begins with asking questions. It’s the question-answers tandem, that makes the foundation of every communication.

In French, there is more than one way to ask, and choosing between all the nuances can take some time to learn.

Question words will help you drive the conversation in many directions, from who, when, what, to where, and how.

Today, we’ll learn how to ask questions in French with basic question words.

Types of Questions in French

In French, there are three types of questions:

  • intonation questions
  • questions with est-ce que
  • questions with inverted word order

We also differentiate between yes-no questions (l’interrogation totale) and question-word questions (l’interrogation partielle).

Question-word questions are known as l’interrogation partielle in French, and they are (qui, que, quand, comment, où). The question word comes right at the beginning of the sentence.

Typical French Question words

Qui – Who ? (subject, direct object, used for people)

Que/qu’ – What ? (subject or object, used for things and actions )

Quand – When ? (point in time)

– Where ? (place location and direction)

Comment – How ? (manner)

How to Use Questions Words in French

There are many forms you can take to express a question in French using question words. Let’s take a look.

Vous arrivez quand ? (informal ) Quand arrivez-vous ? (neutral) Quand est-ce que vous arrivez ? (formal)

When do you arrive?

Question Word + Est-ce que

Asking format questions in French requires est-ce que form after the question word. The rest of the sentence then follows the known affirmative pattern.

Questions word + est-ce que

 As an example:

Qui est-ce que vous avez vu?

Whom did you see?​

Quand est-ce que tu vas venir?

When are you going to come?​

Est-ce que is the inverted form of c’est que, meaning “It is that.” This is why a hyphen is needed between est and ce: c’est = ce + est, which are inverted to est-ce.

Preposition + Question Word

If the question contains a preposition, this comes before the question word.

Avec qui vas-tu au cinéma ?

With whom are you going to the movies ?

Question Word + Inversion

It is the subject and the conjugated verb who switch places (the verb comes first).

 se trouve le cinéma ?

Where is the cinema placed?

Quand commence le film ?

When does the film start?

If the subject is a pronoun, it is connected to the verb with a hyphen.

Qui as-tu invité ?

Whom did you invite?

After the verb, the subject pronoun is connected by a hyphen.

Pourquoi va-t-elle seule au cinéma ?

Why is she going alone to the movies?

If the subject is a noun, it comes before the verb.

Pourquoi Julie va-t-elle seule au cinéma ?

Why does Julie go to the movies alone?

If the question word is que or qu’, we do not use a subject pronoun in addition to the noun like in the example above.

Question Word Qui Instead of a Subject

If we’re asking about the subject, the word order in the question remains the same as in the main clause, and the subject is simply replaced with the question-word qui (for people) or que (for things). In this case, the verb has to be in the 3rd person singular.

Qui joue dans ce film ?

Who plays in the movie?

Example Questions in French

Qui aime jouer au foot dans ta famille?

Who likes playing football in your family?

Que fais-tu le week-end ?/ Qu’est-ce que tu fais le week-end ?

What do you do at the weekend?

Quand partez-vous en vacances ?

When do you go on holiday?

 habites-tu ?

Where do you live?

Comment vas-tu ?

How are you?

Practice French Questions

French questions come in many shapes and colors. The only piece of advice we got to offer is to practice.

Practice makes everything you learned not fade away after a few days.  Here you can get a little practice before you start asking questions.

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