Comment ça se fait ? / Comment se fait-il que... ? = How come? / How is it that...?

The expression How come? can be expressed in different ways in French, depending on the level of speech as well as whether it's followed by a conjugated verb or not.

How come?

Elle est déprimée. - Comment ça se fait?
She is depressed. - How come?

Elle est déprimée. - Comment cela se fait-il ?
She is depressed. - How come?

Note that to express How come? on its own, there are two ways:

- The unformal, familiar phrase Comment ça se fait ?
OR
- the more elegant, formal Comment cela se fait-il ?
Note the use of inverted question form to emphasise the elegant structure.

 

How come [something happens]? / How is it that [something happens]? 

Comment ça se fait qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?

Comment se fait-il qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?

Comment ça se fait que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus?
How come you all have blue eyes?

Comment se fait-il que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus ?
How come you all have blue eyes?

Note that to express how come / how is it that ...?, followed by a conjugated verb in French, you can either use:

- the more familiar Comment ça se fait que ... ?
OR
- the more elegant Comment se fait-il que ... ?
Note 
the use of inverted question form to emphasise the elegant structure.

ATTENTION:
In both cases, the conjugated verb after que will be in Le Subjonctif Présent or Passé.

Note that Comment cela se fait que ... ? can be heard sometimes, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct this form is by using the inversion -il, and NOT cela.
Same issue with Comment cela se fait-il que ... ? which is simply redundant, as it literally means How come this that ...?

 

Read: how to conjugate the subjunctive for regular verbs.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Comment ça se fait que tu parles français? 
How come you speak French?


Comment se fait-il que tu parles français?
How come you speak French?


Comment ça se fait que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus?
How come you all have blue eyes?


Comment se fait-il qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?


Elle est déprimée. - Comment cela se fait-il ?
She is depressed. - How come?


Comment se fait-il que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus ?
How come you all have blue eyes?


Elle est déprimée. - Comment ça se fait?
She is depressed. - How come?


Comment ça se fait qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?


Q&A

John

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6 replies

How come?

To the question (How come) Pauline porte cette robe? My answer 'Comment cela se fait-il que....' is rejected for 'Comment ca se fait'. Yet in the lesson we are told that my answer is the more 'elegant' French. Please explain.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

Hi John, 


if you examine the lesson carefully you will see toward the end that the correct answer is:


Comment se fait-il que.... OR Comment ça se fait que...


The answer "comment cela se fait-il..." is grammatically not correct even though sometimes used colloquially.


-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

I realize that in the beginning of the lesson it seems to say that "comment cela se fait-il?" is more elegant. However this isn't born out later and i. The examples. 


I guess this should be clarified in the lesson. 


-- Chris. 

Alan

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

I think the point is that "comment cela se fait-il?"  is used on its own, not when followed by que ...

Chris

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

Yes, I know. But that needs to be stated more clearly. 


Alan

Kwiziq community member

6 April 2018

6/04/18

OK, but I thought the lesson was quite clear on the distinction between the phrase on its own, and when followed by a conjugated verb.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

25 May 2018

25/05/18

If I may add to this debate -


Comment (cela)se fait-il que Pauline porte cette robe? 


Comment ça se fait que Pauline porte cette robe ?


Pauline porte cette robe, comment ça se fait ?


are all  correct, the first one sounds more elegant and stilted to me .


In spoken French you would use the latter two.


Hope this helps!

Jennifer

Kwiziq community member

7 May 2017

1 reply

Comment ça se fait que v comment cela se fait que?

Are either of these forms strictly correct, or is comment se fait-il que the more orthodox. A bit confused.

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

9 May 2017

9/05/17

Bonjour Jennifer !

You wouldn't say "Comment cela se fait que" because "cela" is actually more elegant, "higher standard" than "ça".
Therefore, when you choose to use "cela" you will also use the more elegant question form that is the inverted form in French:
"Comment cela se fait-il que ?"
And in the elegant form, you can also choose to drop "cela" altogether, as it's repeated with "il":
"Comment se fait-il que ?" 

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

16 September 2016

1 reply

Johnny asked: "How come "Comment cela se fait" is wrong?"

Bonjour Johnny !

"Comment cela se fait que ... ?" can indeed be used by some French people, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct the elegant form is through the use of the inversion "-il", and NOT cela.

You can also encounter  "Comment cela se fait-il que ... ?" which is simply redundant, as it literally means "How come this that ...?"

However, given the fact that some people do use that incorrect form, I decided to change our marking to Half Correct, as we still aim to teach the correct French ;)

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

22 September 2016

22/09/16

Bonjour Johnny !


"Comment cela se fait que ... ?" can indeed be used by some French people, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct the elegant form is through the use of the inversion "-il", and NOT cela.


You can also encounter  "Comment cela se fait-il que ... ?" which is simply redundant, as it literally means "How come this that ...?"


However, given the fact that some people do use that incorrect form, I decided to change our marking to Half Correct, as we still aim to teach the correct French ;)


I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Almut

Kwiziq community member

22 May 2016

6 replies

Comment ça se fait qu'il faille se subjonctif avec cette construction?

(Sorry, couldn't resit.) Into which category does this example fall. It is obviously not a conjunction that triggers the subjonctif here and I also don't see any of the verbs that normally ask for subjonctif - or anything else I've encountered so far with respect to the subjonctif.

Almut

Kwiziq community member

22 May 2016

22/05/16

Sorry, typo: "Comment ça se fait qu'il faille Le subjonctif avec cette construction?"

Christopher

Kwiziq community member

23 May 2016

23/05/16

Hint: "fait que"

Almut

Kwiziq community member

23 May 2016

23/05/16

Thank you, Christopher. I googled the expression and found this: http://bdl.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/bdl/gabarit_bdl.asp?id=3650

However, I have the impression that it is mostly the first case (faire que + indicatif) that is applicable here. Is it because it is a question that it turns into subjonctif?

Christopher

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2016

24/05/16

I'm not a teacher but I would say because it expresses doubt/uncertainty. One of the triggers for subjunctive is the lack of certainty (but there are always exceptions. It's covered a lot in the B2 level tests. Other triggers are emotions, necessity, possibility, wants/desires.

You can find great examples here and on https://www.lawlessfrench.com/.

Almut

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2016

24/05/16

Thank you, Christopher, for the link to https://www.lawlessfrench.com.

I found many interesting things there! Just not the answer to my question. But I'll keep searching... :-)

Christopher

Kwiziq community member

25 May 2016

25/05/16

I would not lose sleep over the subjunctive if you're not at an advanced level. It's not always evident because there are many situations that cause it to be used. French speakers will know when you missed one and they will praise you when you get it right. I've been working on it for 5 years and it's just now starting to make sense to me. For now all you need to know is there has to be a "que" and from that you should add one of the conditions that requires subjunctive until you master that particular condition. Kwiziq is great at teaching this as it will do exactly what I described above. For example, in my current tests I've been drilled repeated on il faut que to the point I dream about it.

I still don't quite understand your original question, it's not clear what you're asking is causing the subjunctive but just the fact that it's posting a question implies uncertainty which normally requires subjunctive.

Good luck
Thinking...