Forming Questions

There are four principal ways to ask a question in French.

The first and simplest way to ask a question when speaking is to make a statement but with rising intonation. In writing, simply put a question mark at the end. This method is considered informal.

  • Vous habitez à Bellevue? (With an upward inflection)
  • Tu aimes le cours de français? (With an upward inflection)

A second way is to place the phrase “Est-ce que…” directly before a statement. This turns it into a question. If the next word begins with a vowel sound, use “Est-ce qu’ “. Questions with “Est-ce que” are somewhat formal.

  • Est-ce que vous parlez française?
  • Est-ce qu’il aime dessiner?

A third way is to end a statement with a tag question, such as “n’est-ce pas?” or “d’accord?”. This method can be formal or informal.

  • Nous mangeons à midi, n’est-ce pas?
  • On commence à deux heures, d’accord?

A fourth way is to invert the order of the subject pronoun and the verb and place a hyphen between them. If the verb ends in a vowel and the subject pronoun begins with one (e.g., il, elle, or on), insert “-t-” between the verb and the pronoun to make pronunciation easier. Inversion is considered more formal.

  • Parlez-vous français?
  • Mange-t-il à midi?
  • Est-elle étudiante?

Expressing Negation

To make a sentence negative in French, place “ne” (n’ before a vowel sound) before the conjugated verb nd “pas” after it. In the construction [conjugated verb + infinitive] “ne” (n’) comes before the conjugated verb and “pas” after it.

  • Je ne dessine pas bien.
  • Elles n’étudient pas la chimie.
  • Abdel n’aime pas dessiner.
  • Vous ne détestez pas travailler?

In questions with inversion place “ne” before the inversion and “pas” after it.

Use “si” instead of “oui” to contradict a negative question.

  • Parles-tu à Daniel ————–> Oui!
  • Ne parles-tu pas à Daniel —-> Si!