Questions

There are many ways to ask a question. However, the best way often depends on the situation. Some forms are rather formal -to be used when writing, giving speeches, or at times that you would use vous to address someone. Other forms are ideal for informal situations. Although there are forms which are clearly formal or clearly informal, some forms can be used at anytime and anywhere- whether you are giving a speech to parliament or hanging out with friends.

 

First, let’s look at questions with simple yes/no answers. There are three ways to ask such questions…

1.Using rising intonation at the end of a sentence is the most common informal form.

 Tu es sure ?

Are you sure?

Nous avons des biscuits ?

Do we have cookies?

Tu vois la baleine ?

Do you see the whale?

Fronting a sentence with est-ce que, is common in both formal and informal contexts.

 Est-ce que je pourrais parler avec Guy ?

May I speak with Guy?

 

Est-ce que je suis fou ?

Am I crazy?

 

Est-ce qu’Alphonse est là ?

Is Alphonse there?

Maman, est-ce que je peux aller jouer avec Bruno ?

Mama, can I go play with Bruno?

 Formal questions are distinguished by the inversion of the subject and verb.

 Avez-vous visité la Belgique ?

Have you visited Belgium?

Êtes-vous prête ?

Are you ready?

 When a verb ends in a vowel and is followed by il, elle, or on, a ‘t’ is inserted between the verb and the noun.

 Mange-t-il la viande ?

Does he eat meat?

 Usually when je is the subject, questions are not formed through inversion execpt with a few short monosyllabic verbs (aller, avoir, devoir, dire, être, and pouvoir) Instead, when je is the subject, questions are typically formed by ‘fronting’ with est-ce que.

 

 Puis-je parler à Helene, s’il vous plaît ?

May I speak with Helene please?

 

Suis-je fou ?

Am I crazy?

 If the question has a negation, contradict the assumption implied in the question with si…

 Tu ne manges pas ? -Si

You aren’t going to eat? -Yes, I am going to eat

 Merci is equivalent to ‘no thankyou’.

Tu voudrais du vin ? Merci

Would you like some wine? No thank you.

INFORMATION WORDS TO INSERT BEFORE QUESTION FORMAT:

quand when
pourquoi why
combien how much/many
comment how
where
que, quoi what
qui who