Asking questions properly is an essential part of any conversation in French. We use questions to connect with a family member, to invite a friend, to ask for directions or for help, to schedule a meeting, or to learn more about a product or service.
There are a number of ways of forming questions in French. Some questions are formal, while other questions are informal.
How to ask yes/no questions in French
The yes/no questions are an informal way to ask questions in French. The answer is usually a yes or a no. French speakers use this way of asking a question in everyday conversations.
Yes/no questions - informal language
#1 Use a rising intonation to ask questions in French
#2 Form questions with "est-ce que"
To insist on the fact that you’re asking a question, you may use “est-ce que”.
This type of question can be answered by yes or no.
It’s the inversion of “c’est que” (this is that).
- est-ce que + subject + verb + complement + ?
You just need to put est-ce que at the beginning of the sentence.
- est-ce que le repas est prêt? Is the meal ready?
The sentence cannot be negative.
Yes/no questions - formal language
This is the more formal way of asking questions.
#3 Ask questions in French by changing word order
In ordinary sentences, the verb comes after its subject.
In this type of question, the verb is put before the subject.
In theory, you can use “tu” when you ask a question with inversion, but it doesn’t make much sense. Indeed you don’t use “tu” with formal language.
The subject pronoun and verb are inverted and joined with a hyphen.
When the verb ends in a vowel, -t- is inserted before the pronoun to make the words easier to say.
- verb + (-t-) + pronoun + complement + ?
- A-t-il fini ? Is he done?
- Nouns are not inverted. When a full noun is used as a subject, you must add a subject.
- example: Pierre a-t-il fini ? Pierre, is he done?
- In compound tenses only the auxiliary is inverted:
- example: Pierre avait-il fini ? Was Pierre done?
Yes/no question - Negative question
#4 Anticipate a no when asking a question in French
On the other hand, when you expect the answer to be no, you have two options:
- Formal: use inversion with a negative adverb
- example: ne viens-tu pas ? Don’t you come?
- Informal: make a negative statement and raise your pitch at the end
- example: tu ne viens pas ? You don’t come?
How to ask open questions in French
Open question - informal language
The open question is used to obtain new information. You have to use a question word like who, what, what, where, how, why, how much, etc. The answer, therefore, contains new information that is not in the question.
#5 Adjust your intonation and make an open-ended question
- subject + verb + question word + complement + ?
You need to raise the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence.
- Vous partez où en vacances ? Where do you go on vacation?
#6 Use est-ce-que to make an open-ended question
- question word + est-ce que + subject + verb + complement + ?
- Où est-ce que vous partez en vacances ? Where do you go on vacation?
Open question - formal language
This type of question is used to get new information about a name. The answer is not in the question.
To form an open or partial question you just need to put the appropriate French question word at the end of the sentence.
#7 Add a question word to make an open-ended question
- question word + verb + subject + complement + ?
- Où partez-vous en vacances ? Where do you go on vacation?
- Quoi + est-ce que becomes qu’est-ce que
How to use question words to ask questions in French
The main question words used in French
Question words are interrogative pronouns, adverbs or adjectives.
#8 Use interrogative pronouns to ask questions in French
When the subject is a person
Qui est-ce qui or qui + verb (who)
- Qui veut venir avec moi ? Who want to come with me?
- Qui est-ce qui veut venir avec moi ? Who want to come with me?
When the subject is a thing
- Qu’est-ce qui te plaît ? What do you like?
When the direct object is a thing
Qu’est-ce que or que + inverted verb (what)
- Qu’est-ce que tu veux faire ? What do you want to do?
- Que manges-tu ? What do you eat?
Lequel: which one, used for singular masculine nouns
- Lequel veux- tu manger ? Which one do you want to eat?
Laquelle used for singular feminine nouns
Lesquelles used for plural feminine nouns
Lesquels used for plural masculine nouns
These pronouns may be combined with prepositions “à” and “de” to further specify the question being asked (see table below).
#9 Choose an interrogative adverb to ask a question in French
Combien de + noun: how much
- Combien de temps avez-vous ? How much time do you have?
- Où veux-tu aller? Where do you want to go ?
- Comment vas-tu ? How are you doing ?
- Pourquoi pars-tu ? Why do you leave?
- Quand veux tu manger ? When do you want to eat ?
#10 Go for an interrogative adjective to start a question in French
Quel: which/what + masculine singular noun
- Quel dessert veux-tu manger ? Which dessert do you want to eat?
Quels: which/what + masculine plural noun
- Quels desserts veux-tu manger ? Which desserts do you want to eat?
Quelle: which/what + feminine singular noun
- Quelle tarte veux-tu manger ? Which pie do you want to eat?
Quelles: which/what + feminine plural noun
- Quelles tartes veux-tu manger ? Which pies do you want to eat?