How to Easily Ask Questions in French And Sound Natural

Knowing how to ask questions in French is crucial and relatively easy in most cases. Today you’ll discover how to ask questions in every situation.

how to ask a yes:no question in FrenchHow to ask yes/no questions in French

Yes/no questions are the easiest questions to ask in French, but you’ll only get an answer in yes or no.

Here are several ways to ask yes/no questions:

#1Raise the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence (informal)

Yes, you read that right.

In informal situations, raising the tone of your voice at the end of an affirmative sentence is enough to turn it into a question.

Tu es américain (you’re American)

Tu es américain ? (you’re American?)

Note: in French, there is a space between the question mark and the word.

#2 Add “n’est-ce pas” at the end of the sentence (informal)

If you”re almost certain that the answer is positive, you can also add “n’est-ce pas” at the end of an affirmative sentence.

“N’est-ce pas” literally means “is it not”. This is similar to “aren’t you” or “isn’t it” in English.

Tu es américain, n’est-ce pas ?

You’re American, aren’t you?

This is an easy way to ask questions, but don’t overuse it. Using it too much would make you sound irritating.

#3 Add “est-ce que” before the sentence (formal or informal)

One of the most common ways to ask questions in French is to simply add “est-ce que” (lit: is is that) before an affirmative sentence.

Note: adding ‘est-ce que” before a sentence is the only way to use “est-ce que”.

Tu es américain (you’re American)

Est-ce que tu es américain ? (are you American?)

 

Vous parlez anglais (you speak English)

Est-ce que vous parlez anglais ? (do you speak English?)

#4 Invert verb and pronoun (formal)

This is a formal and less common way to ask questions in French. Unless you’re writing a book or need to use French in an extremely formal environment, you don’t need to learn it.

 

To ask a question by inversion, you invert verb and pronoun. Let me show you:

Vous parlez anglais (you speak English)

Parlez-vous anglais ? (do you speak English?)

 

Vous êtes américain (you’re American)

Êtes-vous américain ? (Are you American?)

As you can see, you need to add a hyphen between verb and pronoun when you ask a question with inversion in French.

If you use inversion with “il”, “elle” or “on” and a verb ending in a vowel, you need to add “t” between the verb and the pronoun.

On mange ici (we eat here)

Mange-t-on ici ? (do we eat here?)

Note: in theory, you can use “tu” when you ask a question with inversion, but it doesn’t make much sense since “tu” is the informal you and inversions are extremely formal.

How to ask open questions in French

how to ask an open question in FrenchOpen questions are the questions you ask when you expect an answer other than “yes” or “no”.

Before you learn to ask open questions, you need to know the main interrogative pronouns used in French:

  • Quand (when)
  • Quoi (what)
  • Où (where)
  • Comment (how)
  • Qui (who)

Note: Make sure you don’t confuse “ou” and “où”. The first one means “or”, the second “where”. The pronunciation is the same for both words though.

#1 Replace the complement by a question word (informal)

In an informal situation, you can simply replace the complement by the right question word:

Tu manges un macaron (you eat a macaron)

Tu manges quoi ? (lit: you eat what?)

 

Tu vas au cinéma (you go to the cinema)

Tu vas ? (lit: you go where?)

#2 Place the question word before “est-ce que” (formal or informal)

Whether the situation is formal or informal, you can simply add the question word before a sentence using  “est-ce que”.

Je vais à Paris (I go/am going to Paris)

Où est-ce que vous allez ? (where do you go/are you going)

 

Je mange du pain (I eat bread/I’m eating bread)

Qu’est-ce que vous mangez ? (what do you eat/are you eating?)

Note: “quoi + est-ce que” becomes “qu’est-ce que”.

#3 Place the question word before the inversion

If you’re in an extremely formal situation, you can use inversion instead of “est-ce que” to ask an open question.

Comment allez-vous ? (how are you doing? (lit: going)

Quand partez-vous? (when are you leaving?)

Any question?

You’ll only improve if you practice French, so choose a question and post it in the comment section below this article to get my feedback.

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.

8 thoughts on “How to Easily Ask Questions in French And Sound Natural”

  1. Greetings from Mexico, I have lots of doubts when asking questions with “what” in French. I want to know if the following sentences are correct.

    “What are cars?”

    (Formal way) Que sont-elles les voitures?
    OR Que sont-ils les voitures?
    Does this change with the gender of the noun?

    (informal way) Que sont les voitures?/ Les voitures sont quoi?
    Are both correct?

    (with est-ce que)
    I found it like: Qu’est-ce que les voitures?
    But “Qu’est-ce que sont les voitures?” makes more sense for me.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  2. Greetings from Mexico, I have lots of doubts when asking questions with “what” in French. I want to know if the following sentences are correct.

    “What are cars?”

    (Formal way) Que sont-elles les voitures?
    OR Que sont-ils les voitures?
    Does this change with the gender of the noun?

    (informal way) Que sont les voitures?/ Les voitures sont quoi?
    Are both correct?

    (with est-ce que)
    I found it like: Qu’est-ce que les voitures?
    But “Qu’est-ce que sont les voitures?” makes more sense for me.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  3. Thank you for sharing this!! Apparently Duolingo likes the “very formal and rare” way to phrase questions.

    Thank you for the correction. I am looking forward to purchasing your guide in the (near) future!

    Reply
  4. Thank you for sharing this!! Apparently Duolingo likes the “very formal and rare” way to phrase questions.

    Thank you for the correction. I am looking forward to purchasing your guide in the (near) future!

    Reply

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