How to ask a question in French ?

There are 3 different ways to ask a question in French according to the formal or informal context.

  • Interrogative pronouns 

Like in English, we have interrogative pronouns like the ‘Q words’: ‘qui, que, quoi, quel(le), qu’ ‘ or ‘à qui’ ‘à quoi’ ‘comment’ ‘combien’ ‘où’ ‘lequel, laquelle, lesquel(le)s’ ‘pourquoi’

These are the words in context:

  1. Qui parle ? // Who is talking ?
  2. Que manges-tu ? // What are you eating ?
  3. Qu’est-ce-que tu fais ? // What are you doing ?
  4. Quelle heure est-il ? // What time is it ?
  5. Quel vélo préfères-tu ? // Which bike do you prefer ?
  6. Quel âge as-tu ? // How old are you ?
  7. A qui est cette chaise ? // Whose chair is it ?
  8. A quoi penses-tu ? // What are you thinking about ?
  9. Comment vas-tu ? // How are you ?
  10. Combien d’enfants as-tu ? // How many children do you have ?
  11. Combien d’argent as-tu ? // How much money do you have ?
  12. es-tu ? // Where are you ?
  13. Pourquoi pars-tu ? // Why are you leaving ?

‘lequel, laquelle, lesquel(le)s’ are used when you have already talked about the thing or the person. For example with the example n°5, it would be ‘Lequel préfères-tu ?’ (= which one do you prefer). or:

  1. Quelle chaise préfères tu ?’ (= Which chair do you prefer) ⇒ ‘Laquelle préfères tu ? (= Which one do you prefer ?)
  2. Quelles musiques sont tes préférées ?’ (=Which songs are your favorite ?) ⇒ ‘Lesquelles sont tes préférées ?’
  3.  ‘Quels parfums préfères-tu ?’ (=Which fragrances do you prefer ?’ ⇒ ‘Lesquels préfères-tu ?’

Concerning ‘qu’ ‘, you use it when you want to use ‘que’ but the following word starts with a vowel.

‘quoi’ will be use in indirect question (see below). It can also be use when you want to make the person you are talking to repeat what they’ve just said because you didn’t understand or didn’t hear. You can only use it when you know the person well like a friend or your family because it’s familiar. If your are in a formal situation like your talking to your teacher, your boss, someone in the street… you will use ‘comment?’ or ‘pardon?’

  • Auxiliary verbs (Etre & Avoir ⇒  Be & Have) 
  1. As-tu du pain ? // Do you have bred ?
  2. Es-tu un adulte ? // Are you an adult ?

Like in English, it can be use if you have one of the two auxiliary verbs.

  • Statements with ‘?’

If you are in an informal context, you can use a statement and put an ‘?’ at the end or use an interrogative tone.

  1. Tu as faim ? (instead of :’As-tu faim ?’ ⇒ Are you hungry ?)
  2. Il est gentil? (instead of : ‘Est-il gentil ?’ ⇒ Is he nice ?)
  3. Tu veux manger quoi ? (instead of: ‘Que veux-tu manger ? ⇒ What do you want to eat?)
  4. Tu veux te promener ? (instead of: Veux-tu te promener ? ⇒ Do you want to have a walk ?)

 

Be careful, like in English, for a question you have to reverse the words order (except for statements with ‘?’:

  1. Is he shy ? ⇒ He is shy.
  2. Est-il timide ? ⇒ Il est timide.

 

You can also ask indirect questions:

  1. Je me demande si je peux parler français ici. ⇒ I am wondering if I can speak French here.
  2. Je me demande quoi faire. ⇒ I am wondering what to do.
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