French Grammar Lesson 10
What Was the Question?
(How to ask Questions in French)
In English, when we have a statement such as “He is going to the store tonight,” we can flip it into a question by transposing the initial verb and the subject – “Is he going to the store tonight?” We can ask a secondary question by leaving off the prepositional phrase at the end and putting an interrogative word at the beginning, thus arriving at “Where is he going?” If we dropped “tonight” off the original statement and added a different interrogative word, we’d have “When is he going to the store?”
So you can see there are a number of ways to ask questions in English, and you shouldn’t be surprised there are just as many (if not more) ways to ask questions in French!
One simple way is to begin with “est-ce que” and then add a name or first-person pronoun to a verb. Let’s see how that works.
Tu chantes. (You sing – informal version of “you.”)
Est-ce que tu chantes? (Do you sing?)
Vous nagez. (You swim – formal version of “you.”)
Est-ce que vous nagez? (Do you swim?)
Gerrit dort. (Gerrit sleeps.)
Est-ce que Gerrit dort? (Does Gerrit sleep?)
If you put an interrogative word such as “quand” (when), “pourquoi” (why), or “où” (where) BEFORE the “est-ce que” phrase, you now have a when-where-why sort of question.
Quand est-ce que tu chantes? (When do you sing?)
Pourquoi est-ce que vous nagez? (Why do you swim?)
Où est-ce que Gerrit dort? (Where does Gerrit sleep?)
Forming questions in French is very easy, once you get the hang of it!