Est-ce que is a common phrase used to indicate a question in French. It literally translates to “Is it that…?” – in other words, it can stand in for “Is/Are…?”, “Do/Does…?”, or “Have/Has…?”
Although it may look like a complicated jumble of words to those unfamiliar with it, Est-ce que is a common phrase – and one that’s very useful, since it instantly transforms a statement into a question. For instance: Il parle français (He speaks French) could become a question like so: Est-ce qu’il parle français ? (Does he speak French?).
Note that, in line with French rules about vowels, the que in Est-ce que becomes qu’ when it’s followed by a vowel, as in the example above.
Est-ce que is generally used at the beginning of a sentence, but it can be used in the middle of one if it’s accompanied by another French question word like quand (when) or où (where).
Est-ce que tu aimes le fromage ?
Do you like cheese?
Est-ce que tu l’as vu hier ?
Did you see him yesterday?
Est-ce que la piscine est ouverte ?
Is the swimming pool open?
Est-ce que vous vous êtes déjà rencontrés ?
Have you met before?
Où est-ce que tu as acheté ce tableau ?
Where did you buy this painting?