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

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 (or in written form with a question mark):

Comment tu vas ?
How are you?

Tu vas comment ?
How are you?

C'est qui ?
Who is it?

C'est quoi ?
What is it?

Note that what can only be at the end of the sentence, and you use quoi and NOT que.

Note that in who [does] questions, qui [fait] will always be at the beginning, but in other cases, qui (whom or who is it) can be at either place.

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

 

2. With est-ce que...

You will 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. it is a more elegant way to ask questions:

Qui est-ce ?
Who is it?

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

Quand partent-ils?
When are they leaving?

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 ... ? and 

 

For more question types, see also:

Asking yes/no questions with intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas

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

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

est-ce que tu vas ?
Where are you going?


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


Comment tu vas ?
How are you?



Que veut-il ?
What does he want?


Qu'est-ce qu'elle veut faire?
What does she want to do?


Comment vas-tu ?
How are you?


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


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


Quand partent-ils?
When are they leaving?


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


Tu vas comment ?
How are you?


forwards


Tu fais ça comment ?
How are you doing that?


C'est quand ?
When is it?


C'est quoi ?
What is it?


C'est qui ?
Who is it?


C'est combien ?
How much is that?


C'est où ?
Where is it?


Pourquoi tu rigoles? 
Why are you laughing?


inverted


Qu'est-ce?
What is it?


Qui est-ce ?
Who is it?


Q&A

Latha

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2018

2 replies

Could you ps explain what is wrong in'Ouvre-t-on les cadeaux quand ?'

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2018

19/10/18

The question words are always placed at the start in the inverted question form.

Quand ouvre-t-on les cadeaux?

Latha

Kwiziq community member

19 October 2018

19/10/18

D'accord , J'ai compris.Merci beaucoup.

David

Kwiziq community member

6 August 2018

0 replies

The writing challenge asked "How much is it"

The translation "C'est combien" was not accepted. Isn't this just as acceptable as the 4 or 5 other translations that were offered? And it has the benefit of being less wordy.

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

8 April 2018

2 replies

va-t-il What does the -t-il mean?

I know now that it means " does he go, " but the average person reading this wouldn't know that. -T-il is perhaps the most confusing thing about French question-making. What does the -t- even mean? Can't mean tu or te judging by the context, so why's it there? Just for phonetic reasons, like the l' in si l'on? This should really be explained in the lesson, what -t-il means.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

8 April 2018

8/04/18

The "t" is just interposed to prevent two vowels from clashing, is all. Nothing deep, no reference to anything grammatical. sometimes things really are simple ;))

-- Chris. 

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

8 April 2018

8/04/18

Oh good, so like the l in si l'on, just like I suspected. Still, I wish that was included in the lesson, if only as a side-note considering it's something you need to know to be able to answer one of the micro-quizes.

s

Kwiziq community member

17 February 2018

5 replies

Questions with vous form?

s

Kwiziq community member

17 February 2018

17/02/18

Sorry, my question was incomplete: How are you? = Comment vas-tu ? or Comment tu vas ? So, is it Comment allez-vous? Commet vous allez? Where are you? = Où es-tu? So, is it Où êtes vous? Does it sound normal?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

18 February 2018

18/02/18

Yes, it is "où êtes-vous?" (Note the hyphen in the inverted form). 

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

s

Kwiziq community member

18 February 2018

18/02/18

Thank you Chris, and "how are you? with vous?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 February 2018

19/02/18

"Comment allez-vous?" Should do the trick. The inverted form is the one I hear most often used. 

-- Chris. 

s

Kwiziq community member

19 February 2018

19/02/18

Thank you Chris, it is strange that I have to try hard to find questions with "vous" form! Even google translate uses "tu" form! I know google is not the best way to learn, but whatever makes me understand this confusion.

Stuart

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2017

3 replies

I didn’t think the lesson prepared for me the present opening question ...

Where did all those ‘t’s come from? I didn’t understand the difference between the answers - well done to all thise below who did, but this was - and will probably remain - a mystery to me :(

Chris

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2017

13/12/17

Can you post a specific sentence you have problems with? -- Chris.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 December 2017

14/12/17

Bonjour Stuart! For issues on specific questions, it's easier to use the "report" button in your correction board, as it gives us access to the specific question you're referring to, and makes it easier for us to answer you :) Bonne journée !

Stuart

Kwiziq community member

14 December 2017

14/12/17

Just to say that the majority of the examples used three or four words, and the question seemed almost treble that number with a good deal more complexity - for a novice like me. I didn't feel as though the examples prepared me for the question, that's all.

Rene

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

3 replies

Question word + est-ce-que :

Mes amis français m'ont dit que cette forme est incorrecte, que "est-ce-que tu vas à... " est juste, mais pas "où est-ce-que tu vas". Qu'en pensez-vous ?

Ron

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

4/11/17

Bonsoir Rene, En parlant français formel, la forme correcte est : «Combien d'euros est-ce que ça coûte?» ou «Pourquoi est-ce que vous voudriez faire ça». Mais, d'habitude, au cours d’une discussion la forme changerait un peu parce que c'est plus informel. La forme la plus formelle est l'utilisation de l'inversion du sujet-verbe.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

4 November 2017

4/11/17

"Où est-ce que tu vas" sounds a bit stilted when used in a normal conversational context. That's because you'd much rather use "Tu vas où?" our even "Où vas-tu?". Shorter and more to the point. Although "où est-ce que tu vas" is grammatically perfectly alright. Sometimes the inverted form, although considered in general to be more formal, is the expected form. As in, "Comment vas-tu?" wich is used this way even on informal occasions. It is probably best to be well versed in all 3 forms of questions and then start reading and participating in spoken French. You'll get a feeling for when which form is more appropriate and "expected" by the native French speaker. -- Chris (not a native speaker).

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

7 September 2018

7/09/18

Hi Rene,

You will hear the three following questions for 'Where are you going?' in French.

They are all correct but have grouped them from more formal to casual.

"Où vas-tu?"

"Où est-ce que tu vas? "

"Tu vas où?"

Hope this helps!

 

harris

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2017

3 replies

Combien

If i wanted to say: "how many of them do you want me to buy?" Can I say it like this: - <> Or would this be better: - <>

harris

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2017

28/10/17

Let me try that again. Can I say it like this: "combien en veux-tu que j'achète?" Or would this be better: "Tu veux que j'en achète combien?"

Ron

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2017

28/10/17

Bonjour Harris, «Combien est-ce que tu voudrais que j'en achète?» would be my first inclination. However, keep in mind that just like your examples, there are probably many more ways to phrase the question in French. J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait. Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet Ron (un locuteur non natif )

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

6 September 2018

6/09/18

Hi Harris,

Sorry about the delay in answering you question...

I would say the three possibilities are:

Tu veux que j'en achète combien?

Combien veux-tu que j'en achète?

Combien est-ce que tu veux que j'en achète?

The last one is a bit clumsier than the other two.

Hope this helps!

Manal

Kwiziq community member

13 June 2017

1 reply

How do i reconstruct the question "où a-t-elle appris le francais" to include est-ce que?

If i follow the rule, then it should be "où est-ce que a-t-elle appris le francais" but is that correct?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 June 2017

14/06/17

Bonjour Manal ! The lesson states that with "est-ce que", the order of the sentence remains normal - no inversion - so in this case it would be: "Où est-ce qu'elle a appris le français ?" Bonne journée !

Kari

Kwiziq community member

4 June 2017

4 replies

Why is this correct and the other not?

Why is je mets mes chaussures où d'habitude? correct but when you invert the verb and keep the rest the same it is incorrect? Per the quiz "mets-je mes chaussures où d'habitude? is incorrect. I didn't choose either of them as it seemed strange to have the où in the middle like that but was surprised to see one of them was in fact correct. Please explain. Thanks.

Nicholas

Kwiziq community member

5 June 2017

5/06/17

You can only invert certain verbs. dis-je, suis-je, ai-je for example but it iform and custom not something you can do with all verbs, that would be far too simple!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

12 June 2017

12/06/17

https://www.thoughtco.com/uses-of-french-inversion-4086442 https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/inversion/ Bonjour Kari, These two links are lessons written by Laura that explains the inversion a little more. Perhaps this will aid you somewhat. Ron

Ron

Kwiziq community member

13 June 2017

13/06/17

Bonsoir Kari, Actually any verb can be used in inversion to form a question. If you read French literature, this is very common. In fact, inversion is considered by some to be a more formal structure. From the lesson: Simple Yes/No Questions The forms je peux, je vais, je suis, j'ai can be inverted but these forms are rarely used nowadays, as they're considered very formal and old-fashioned: Puis-je avoir le pain, s'il-vous-plaît? May I have the bread, please? Suis-je à la bonne adresse? Am I at the right address? Ai-je assez d'argent? Do I have enough money? Vais-je dans la bonne direction? Am I going the right way? Notice that je peux becomes irregular in the inverted form puis-je, probably to ease pronunciation. This structure is very formal as we stated before, so would only be used in polite contexts: the nearest English equivalent would be May I? Note also that although it's rare to invert Je + verb to make a question, it does happen with some verbs. I believe what Nicholas is referencing, if I may, is the inversion of first person, singular verbs using «Je», please see above. For the most part, most of the inversion verbs in literature that I run across do not use the first person, singular inversion. J'espère que cela vous aidera. Bonne chance, Ron

Chris

Kwiziq community member

13 June 2017

13/06/17

"Mets-je mes chaussures où d'habitude?" is incorrect because the "où" is in the wrong spot. You could say, "Où mets-je mes chaussures d'habitude?" and that would be just fine. When forming a question by inversion you put the interrogative pronoun in front of the sentence. Here are the three ways to ask this question for comparison: "Je mets mes chaussures où d'habitude?" "Où est-ce que je mets mes chaussures d'habitude?" "Où mets-je mes chaussures d'habitude?" Felitations amicales, -- Chris.

sue

Kwiziq community member

24 March 2017

2 replies

Why is quand on ouvre les cadeaux ? marked correct?

if I were to read Quand on ouvre les cadeaux I would not expect to have a question mark at the end but a following clause. when I open the presents..... I understand that this perhaps is a very informal spoken form for a question where the question is shown by intonation. BUT in this kwiz it was a written question and not a spoke question. For this reason I feel it not right that not marking this phrase as right gives a nearly correct reponse. Ok it is good to realise that there are different levels of french usage , but where is the indictaion in the written form that it was a question, other that the question mark.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

10/04/17

In French, when either inversion, est-ce que, qui est-ce qui, or qu'est-ce que are omitted, then it becomes a matter of a normal statement with intonation of a question. In the case cited, it is a written, simple question, hence the question mark is the only clue that it was a question. J'espère que ma réponse vous aide.

Ron

Kwiziq community member

10 April 2017

10/04/17

In French, when either inversion, est-ce que, qui est-ce qui, or qu'est-ce que are omitted, then it becomes a matter of a normal statement with intonation of a question. In the case cited, it is a written, simple question, hence the question mark is the only clue that it was a question. J'espère que ma réponse vous aide.
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