In French, to make formal questions, we usually invert the verb and its subject (je, tu, nous, vous, ils, elles). See Forming inverted questions in Le Présent (except il, elle, on forms).
However, this method is not as straightforward when the subject is il, elle or on.
Look at these examples:
Va-t-il à Paris?Is he going to Paris?
Parle-t-elle anglais?Does she speak English?
Mange-t-on bientôt?Are we eating soon?
Y a-t-il un problème ? - Oui, il y a un problème.Is there a problem? - Yes, there is a problem.
Notice that when the verb ends with a vowel (often the case with il/elle/on), then a t must be inserted in-between the verb and il/elle/on with hyphens : -t- .
The purpose here is to make the sentence easier to pronounce.
When the verb already ends in a 't' or 'd', you don't need to insert the extra 't' because it's already present (the 'd' is pronounced [t] in these cases):
Réussit-il ses études?Is he doing well at school?
Prend-on le train ou le bus?Do we take the train or the bus?
Quand prend-il sa douche?When does he have his shower?
The same rules apply in questions starting with a question word (que, qui, où, ...):
Comment va-t-il ?How is he?
Que cherche-t-elle ?What is she looking for?
Où va-t-on ce soir?Where are we going tonight?
Combien de bouteilles veut-il ?How many bottles does he want?
Questions with qui, que, quoi, quand, où, comment, pourquoi, combien
Questions: Que ... = What ... ?
Forming inverted questions with names, things and emphasis
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