Questions with qui, que, quoi, quand, où, comment, pourquoi, combien in French

In the most basic form of questions, these question words can be used:

qui who
que/quoi what
quand when
where
comment how
pourquoi why
combien how much

Let's see the three ways to use them:

 

1. Use intonation with a normal statement

In that very simple case, most of the time question words would be at the end of the statement, but they can also sometimes be at the beginning of the statement.
The question will be marked with a querying tone (and in written form with a question mark):
Comment tu vas ?How are you?

Tu vas comment ?How are you?

Tu viens quand ?When are you coming?

Pourquoi il ne veut pas jouer ?Why doesn't he want to play?

ATTENTION:
What can only be at the end of the sentence, and you use quoi and NOT que.

C'est quoi ?What is it?

On va faire quoi demain ?What are we going to do tomorrow?


In who + [verb] questions - (who does, who cooks...?) - qui is always at the beginning of the question - (qui fait, qui cuisine...?) - BUT in other cases, such as whom... or who is it?, qui can be in either place.

Qui fait la vaisselle ce soir ?Who washes the dishes tonight?

C'est qui ?Who is it?

Qui c'est ?Who is it?

Elle aime qui ?Who(m) does she love?


See Questions: Qui, qui est-ce qui = Who ? and Questions: Qui / qui est-ce que = Whom ?.

 

2. With est-ce que...

You place the question word before est-ce que followed by the statement in a normal order. This is a common way to start a question.
est-ce que tu vas ?Where are you going?

Quand est-ce que vous quittez Chicago?When do you leave Chicago?

Combien est-ce que ça coûte?How much does it cost?

Qu'est-ce qu'elle veut faire?What does she want to do?
-> Note that in this last case, que becomes qu' because it's in front of a vowel.

 

3. Use the "inverted question" form

You use the question word at the beginning of the sentence, followed by the inverted verb and then the subject. This is a more elegant and more formal way to ask questions in French.
Qui est-ce ?Who is it?

Pourquoi ont-ils des rayures ?Why have they got stripes?

Quand partent-ils pour Québec ?When are they leaving for Quebec City?

Comment vas-tu ?How are you?
 

ATTENTION: in the inverted form, quoi becomes que or qu' :

Que veut-il ?What does he want?

Qu'écoutes-tu à la radio ?What do you listen to on the radio?

These question words are always placed at the start with inverted forms.

See also Questions: Que ... = What ... ? in French and Forming inverted questions in French in Le Présent with il, elle, on

 

For more question types, see also:

Asking yes/no questions in French with intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas (French Questions)

Forming inverted questions in French in Le Présent (except il, elle, on forms)

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Examples and resources

Qu'est-ce qu'elle veut faire?What does she want to do?
Quand partent-ils pour Québec ?When are they leaving for Quebec City?
Comment vas-tu ?How are you?
Pourquoi il ne veut pas jouer ?Why doesn't he want to play?
Quand est-ce que vous quittez Chicago?When do you leave Chicago?
Elle aime qui ?Who(m) does she love?
Tu vas comment ?How are you?
Tu viens quand ?When are you coming?
Comment est-ce qu'il fait ça ?How does he do that?
Qui fait la vaisselle ce soir ?Who washes the dishes tonight?
Comment tu vas ?How are you?
Pourquoi ont-ils des rayures ?Why have they got stripes?
Qu'est-ce que vous voulez ?What do you want?
Qui c'est ?Who is it?
est-ce que tu vas ?Where are you going?
Qu'écoutes-tu à la radio ?What do you listen to on the radio?
Combien je te dois ?How much do I owe you?
Que veut-il ?What does he want?
On va faire quoi demain ?What are we going to do tomorrow?
Combien est-ce que ça coûte?How much does it cost?

forwards


Tu fais ça comment ?How are you doing that?
C'est combien ?How much is that?
C'est qui ?Who is it?
C'est où ?Where is it?
C'est quand ?When is it?
Pourquoi tu rigoles?Why are you laughing?
C'est quoi ?What is it?

inverted


Qu'est-ce?What is it?
Qui est-ce ?Who is it?
Clever stuff happening!