How To Ask Questions In French? – 5 Ways To Get The Answers You Want


Learning how to ask questions in French is essential, whether you want to have a successful conversation or obtain specific information.

In this article, I’ll teach you exactly how you can do that, so you always know:

  • What to say when you want to ask a question.
  • What to expect when you’re the one being asked a question.

Keep reading to find out more!

Before we start, here’s an important thing to know:
Demander is the most common translation of “to ask”.
But demander une question is incorrect.
“To ask a question” is poser une question.

Change your intonation

If you expect a yes or no answer, the simplest way to ask a question is definitely this one.

All you have to do is:

  • Take a declarative sentence, which can be an affirmative or negative one.
  • Change your intonation by raising your pitch at the end of the sentence.

This effectively turns your sentence into a question.

  • Tu aimes le français. (You like French.) => Tu aimes le français ? (Do you like French?)
  • Il ne vient pas. (He’s not coming.) => Il ne vient pas ? (He’s not coming?)

Although this is considered an informal way of asking a question, in practice it’s very different.

Because of the simplicity of this question structure, French people tend to use it in most conversations, whether formally or informally.

It can also be used in informal writing, such as text messages and emails.

In that case, instead of raising your pitch, make sure to add the question mark at the end of the sentence, so the receiver knows it’s a question.

Note: As a typographic rule, you need to put a space before the question mark. But French people tend to disregard this rule when typing in informal contexts.

Start with Est-ce que

This is another common way to ask a question if you expect a yes or no answer.

Take a declarative sentence and add Est-ce que in front of it.

When there’s a vowel or an “h” after Est-ce que, you must use an elision. For example, Est-ce qu’il(s) … or Est-ce qu’elle(s).

  • Tu aimes le français. (You like French.) => Est-ce que tu aimes le français ? (Do you like French?)
  • Il va bien. (He’s ok.) => Est-ce qu’il va bien ? (Is he ok?)
  • Vous avez vu ce film. (You saw this movie.) => Est-ce que vous avez vu ce film ? (Have you seen this movie?)

Est-ce que insists on the fact that you are asking a question.

Est-ce que has no specific meaning on its own. Instead, it can be translated differently depending on what follows it:

  • Do/Does/Is/Are/Has/Have + pronoun + your declarative sentence + ?

French people use Est-ce que a lot in informal and formal conversations, as well as in informal writing.

Note: Est-ce que only works with an affirmative sentence, not a negative one. For example, you can’t say Est-ce qu’ils ne viennent pas ? (Are they not coming?).

Use a tag question

When you’re sure the answer is going to be Yes, you can add a tag question at the end of your declarative sentence.

N’est-ce pas ? – The formal tag question

Add n’est-ce pas ? at the end of your sentence. This expression takes on the translation of whatever the question is. It can mean “isn’t it, don’t you, doesn’t she” and so on.

  • Tu aimes le français, n’est-ce pas ? (You like French, don’t you?)
  • Vous êtes italienne, n’est-ce pas ? (You’re Italian, aren’t you?)
  • C’est super, n’est-ce pas ? (It’s great, isn’t it?)

While n’est-ce pas ? is correct, it’s a little outdated. You won’t hear it often in modern everyday conversations, unless you really want to emphasize your point. 

So I suggest going with the 2nd option.

Non ? – The everyday tag question

Add non ? (no?) at the end of your sentence.

  • Tu aimes le français, non ? (You like French, no?)
  • Vous êtes italienne, non ? (You’re Italian, no?)
  • C’est super, non ? (It’s great, no?)

In everyday conversations, non ? is much more used than n’est-ce pas ?

You might also hear nan ? which is a slang version of no ?

Hein ? – The informal tag question

Add hein ? at the end of your sentence. It’s similar to the English “right?”.

  • Tu viens ce soir, hein? (You’re coming tonight, right?)

This option is only meant for informal conversations.

There are 2 ways to say Yes in French.

1. Reply with Oui to an affirmative question.
Tu viens demain ? (Are you coming tomorrow?)
Oui. (Yes.)

2. Reply with Si if the question or statement contains a negative expression.
Tu ne viens pas demain ? (Aren’t you coming tomorrow?)
Si. (Yes, I am.)

With Si, you’re essentially turning the negative proposition (I’m not coming tomorrow) into a positive one (I am coming tomorrow).

If you were to answer Oui, that would mean you’re saying “Yes, I’m not coming”.

While it’s a little less common, you can also use tag questions with negative sentences.

  • Vous n’êtes pas à la maison, n’est-ce pas ? (You’re not at home, aren’t you?)
  • Il n’est pas arrivé, non ? (He hasn’t arrived, no?)
  • Tu n’as pas fait tes devoirs, hein ? (You didn’t do your homework, right?)

As we’ve just seen, if you want to say Yes, make sure to answer this kind of negative question with Si and not Oui.

Use an inversion

This is the most formal way of asking a question in French. It works whether you expect a Yes/No or a detailed answer.

But what exactly is an inversion?

In a normal sentence, you put the verb after the subject.

  • Vous aimez le français. (You like French.)

But when you ask a question using an inversion, you put the verb before the subject.

  • Aimez-vous le français ? (Do you like French?)

Here are a few rules to follow when using inversions.

RULE 1When you’re writing the question, add a hyphen between the verb and the subject.

Just look at the previous example: Aimez-vous le français ?

RULE 2When your question contains the pronouns il (he) or elle (she) and the verb ends with a vowel, insert a “-t-” between the verb and the pronoun.

  • Incorrect: Aime-il le tennis ?
  • Correct: Aime-t-il le tennis ? (Does he like tennis?)

This rule is important for written and spoken French. When you’re saying the question, you have to make the liaison and pronounce the -t-.

RULE 3 When you use a compound tense, don’t invert the whole verb! Just invert the avoir or être part of the verb by putting it at the beginning before the subject.

Declarative sentenceCorrect inversionIncorrect inversion
Tu es allé à Paris.
(You went to Paris.)
Es-tu allé à Paris ?
(Did you go to Paris?)
Es allé-tu à Paris ?
Vous avez vu ce film.
(You saw this movie.)
Avez-vous vu ce film ?
(Have you seen this movie?)
Avez vu-vous ce film ?
Vous aviez mangé ici.
(You had eaten here.)
Aviez-vous mangé ici ?
(Had you eaten here?)
Aviez mangé-vous ici ?

RULE 4When you use a noun or a name as the subject, add a pronoun after the verb and link them with a hyphen (Rules 2 and 3 also apply when necessary).

Let’s take a normal sentence:

  • Joanna est française. (Joanna is French).

How would you turn this into a question using the inversion technique?

In this sentence, Joanna is the subject.

For the pronoun, you need to use the third person singular, in the form elle because Joanna is a girl.

Add this pronoun after the verb est and link the two with a hyphen.

The answer is:

  • Joanna est-elle française ? (Is Joanna French?)

Tip: Since you’re using a noun or name as the subject, the pronoun will always be il, ils, elle or elles. To choose the correct one, you just need to know if the subject is:

  1. Masculine or feminine
  2. Singular or plural

Here are some additional examples.

  • Le restaurant est-il situé à Paris ? (Is the restaurant located in Paris?)
  • Ta maison est-elle grande ? (Is your house big?)
  • Paul a-t-il retrouvé son chien ? (Did Paul find his dog?)
  • Victoria est-elle partie ? (Is Victoria gone?)

RULE 5If you want to specify your query and ask an open-ended question, add a question word (more on this in the next section) before the inverted part.

  • Pourquoi aimez-vous le français ? (Why do you like French?)
  • À quelle heure arriverez-vous ? (What time will you arrive?)
  • Comment as-tu choisi son cadeau ? (How did you choose his/her gift?)
Inverted questions are very formal.

While it’s possible to use tu with an inversion (as you’ve seen in several examples above), it’s quite rare that you’ll hear it in an actual conversation.

That’s because, by definition, you use tu with people you know well and are close with, so asking a question in such a formal way would be quite awkward.

Avoid using an inversion with negative questions. While grammatically correct, they don’t sound natural at all.

See for yourself.

  • Le restaurant n’est-il pas situé à Paris ? (Isn’t the restaurant located in Paris?)
  • Victoria n’est-elle pas partie ? (Isn’t Victoria gone?)

 You’ll almost never hear a French native use an inverted negative question.

Use question words

Up until now, we mostly talked about how to ask a closed question.

But how to ask an open-ended question in French? That’s the kind where you expect a detailed answer.

In Rule 5 of the inversion section, I introduced question words. It’s time to look more into it.

A question word is a word like who, what, when, etc. It’s used to ask for a specific piece of information.

As a general rule of thumb, question words are placed at the beginning of the sentence. But in some instances, you can also find them in the middle or at the end of a sentence.

Here’s a list of the most common question words in French. To ask even more complex questions, you can also combine some of them with prepositions.

I suggest you learn them by heart, so you can use them with ease when the time comes.

Comment (how)

  • Comment allez-vous ? (How are you?)
  • Comment as-tu fait cette recette ? (How did you do this recipe?)
  • Comment c’est possible ? (How is it possible?)

Où (where)

  • Où est ton chien ? (Where is your dog?)
  • Où es-tu allé hier soir ? (Where did you go last night?)

Note: Don’t confuse (where) with ou (or). One has an accent, the other doesn’t.

Common prepositions with :

Jusqu’où (how far)
*It’s the contraction of jusque + où
Jusqu’où dois-je marcher ?
(How far do I need to walk?)
D’où (from where)
*It’s the contraction of de + où
D’où venez-vous ?
(Where are you from?)

Quand (when)

  • Quand reviens-tu ? (When are you coming back?)

Common prepositions with quand:

Jusqu’à quand
(until when)
Jusqu’à quand tu restes en France ?
(Until when do you stay in France?)
Depuis quand
(since when)
Depuis quand es-tu ici ?
(Since when are you here?)
Pour quand
(for when)
Pour quand en avez-vous besoin ?
(For when do you need it?)

Pourquoi (why)

  • Pourquoi il a fait ça ? (Why did he do this?)
  • Pourquoi l’eau est bleue ? (Why is the water blue?)
  • Pourquoi partez-vous ? (Why are you leaving?)

Combien (how much, how many)

  • Combien coûte ce téléphone ? (How much is this phone?)
  • Combien de frères avez-vous ? (How many brothers do you have?)
  • Tu en veux combien ? (How many do you want?)

Common prepositions with combien:

Avec combien de
(with how much/many)
Avec combien de personnes pars-tu ?
(With how many people are you leaving?)
Combien de temps
(how long)
Combien de temps dure le film ?
(How long does the movie last?)
Pendant combien de temps
(for how long)
Tu seras en vacances pendant
combien de temps ?
(For how long will you be on vacation?)
Depuis combien de temps
(since how long)
Depuis combien de temps
apprends-tu le français ?
(Since how long ago have you
been learning French?)

Qui (who, whom)

  • Qui vient avec nous ? (Who’s coming with us?)

Qui is used to refer to a person or people.

Common prepositions with qui:

Avec qui
(which whom)
Tu y vas avec qui ?
(With whom are you going there?)
De qui
(of/from/about whom)
De qui parlez-vous ?
(Of whom are you talking about?)
À qui
(to whom)
À qui as-tu donné ce cadeau ?
(To whom did you give this gift?)
Pour qui
(for whom)
C’est pour qui tout ça ?
(For whom is this all for?)
Chez qui
(at whose place)
Tu dors chez qui ?
(At whose place are you sleeping?)

Que / quoi (what)

  • Que veux-tu ? (What do you want?)
  • Ça veut dire quoi ? (What does it mean?)

Que / quoi is used when talking about things or ideas.

Que as a question word can only be placed at the beginning of a sentence.

Quoi goes in the middle or at the end of a sentence. You can’t put it at the beginning, unless your sentence is just one word Quoi ? (What?).

Common prepositions with quoi:

À quoi
(for what)
À quoi ça sert ?
(What is it for?)
De quoi
(of what, about what)
Tu parles de quoi ?
(What are you talking about?)
Avec quoi
(with what)
Tu vas faire ça avec quoi ?
(What are you going to do that with?)

Quel, quels, quelle, quelles

The adjective quel agrees in gender and number, meaning it will be spelled differently depending on the noun it refers to. It can be translated by who, which or what.

Quel is masculine singular.

  • Quel est ton film préféré ? (What’s your favorite movie?)
  • Quel est ton acteur préféré ? (Who’s your favorite actor?)

Quels is masculine plural.

  • Quels sont tes films préférés ? (What are your favorite movies?)
  • Quels sont tes acteurs préférés ? (Who are your favorite actors?)

Quelle is feminine singular.

  • Quelle ville préfères-tu ? (What’s your favorite city?) 
  • Quelle maison veux-tu ? (Which house do you want?)

Quelles is feminine plural.

  • Quelles villes préfères-tu ? (What are your favorite cities?)
  • Quelles maisons veux-tu ? (Which houses do you want?)

Common prepositions with quel:

Jusqu’à quelle heure
(until what time)
Jusqu’à quelle heure restes-tu ?
(Until what time are you staying?)
Depuis quelle heure
(since what time)
Depuis quelle heure es-tu ici ?
(Since what time have you been here?)
Pour quelle heure
(for what time)
Tu y seras pour quelle heure ?
(For what time will you be there?)
Avec quel
(with which)
Tu pars avec quels amis ?
(With which friends are you going?)
Pour quel
(for which)
Pour quelle équipe es-tu ?
(Which team are you for?)
De quel
(of which / about which)
De quel pays venez-vous ?
(Of which country do you come from?)
À quel
(at which / in which)
À quel âge as-tu commencé la danse ?
(At which age have you began dancing?)
Dans quel
(in which / inside which)
Dans quelle maison vis-tu ?
(In which house do you live?)

Lequel, laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles

The pronoun lequel agrees in gender and number. It translates as “which one(s)”.

Lequel is masculine singular.

  • Lequel veux-tu lire ? (Which one do you want to read?)

In this example, lequel refers to a book, which is un livre in French.

Lesquels is masculine plural.

  • Lesquels veux-tu lire ? (Which ones do you want to read?)

In this example, lesquels refer to books, which is des livres in French.

Laquelle is feminine singular.

  • Laquelle préfères-tu ? (Which one do you prefer?)

In this example, laquelle refers to a car, which is une voiture in French. 

Lesquelles is feminine plural.

  • Lesquelles préfères-tu ? (Which ones do you prefer?)

In this example, lesquelles refer to cars, which is des voitures in French.

Duquel, desquels, de laquelle, desquelles

The pronoun duquel is the contraction of the preposition de + lequel.

It agrees in gender and number and can be translated by “of which/whom, from which/whom, about which/whom” depending on how you use it.

DuquelMasculine singularTu parles d’un livre ?
(You’re talking about a book?)

Duquel parles-tu ?
(Which one are you talking about?)
DesquelsMasculine pluralTu parles de films ?
(You’re talking about movies?)

Desquels parles-tu ?
(Which ones are you talking about?)
De laquelleFeminine singularTu viens d’une ville ?
(You’re from a city?)

De laquelle viens-tu ?
(Which one do you come from?)
DesquellesFeminine pluralVous parlez de vos sœurs ?
(You’re talking about your sisters?)

Desquelles parlez-vous ?
(Which ones are you talking about?)

Auquel, auxquels, à laquelle, auxquelles

The pronoun auquel is the contraction of the preposition à + lequel.

It agrees in gender and number. The most common translation is “which one”.

AuquelMasculine singularVous allez à un restaurant ?
(You’re going to a restaurant?)

Auquel allez-vous ?
(Which one are you going to?)
AuxquelsMasculine pluralTu penses à tes frères ?
(You’re thinking about your brothers?)

Auxquels penses-tu ?
(Which ones are you thinking about?)
À laquelleFeminine singularTu parles à une amie ?
(You’re talking to a friend?)

À laquelle parles-tu ?
(Which one are you talking to?)
AuxquellesFeminine pluralVous pensez à vos filles ?
(You’re thinking about your daughters?)

Auxquelles pensez-vous ?
(Which ones are you thinking about?)

Three ways to ask the very same question in French

In French, you can ask the same question differently by putting the question word:

  1. At the end of the sentence (Exception: que and quel can’t be put at the end!)
  2. Before est-ce que
  3. Before an inversion

Here are a few examples. 

1. Tu viens quand ?
2. Quand est-ce que tu viens ?
3. Quand viens-tu ?
When are you coming?
1. Tu as vu qui ?
2. Qui est-ce que tu as vu ?
3. Qui as-tu vu ?
Who did you see?
1. Vous allez où ?
2. Où est-ce que vous allez ?
3. Où allez-vous ?
Where are you going?

In most French learning methods, you’ll learn the proper way to ask questions which is through an inversion (#3). However, it’s considered very formal.

In a normal conversation, you’re more likely to hear the question asked in an informal way (#1 and #2).

Don’t dwell on it when it happens though!

The question is still the same, with a slightly different word order than you expected, that’s all!

Grasp the essential meaning and answer however you can.

The goal is to keep the conversation going smoothly, so you can get more practice and build your confidence.

If you didn’t catch the question on your first try, you can always ask the person to repeat themself by saying Pardon ? or Comment ? (Sorry?) in formal situations and Quoi ? in informal situations.

The bottom line

Now you know exactly how to ask questions in French!

You can change your intonation, start your sentence with Est-ce que or use a tag question, an inversion or a question word.

To prepare yourself for real-life conversations, you can also check the most common French questions and learn how to answer them.

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