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Simple interrogatives (questions which can be answered by yes or no) can be formed in a number of ways:

A. By intonation:

Il y a quelqu’un? (Is anyone there?)
Vous n’avez rien à déclarer? (You have nothing to declare?)

B. By adding n’est-ce pas? to the sentence:

C’est l’heure de partir, n’est-ce pas? (It’s time to go, isn’t it?)
Il voudrait nous accompagner, n’est-ce pas? (He’d like to come with us, wouldn’t he?)

C. By using est-ce que at the beginning of the sentence:

Est-ce que tu as téléphoné? (Did you call?)
Est-ce qu’ils ont fini de faire ce bruit? (Have they finished making that noise?)

D. By inverting the subject pronoun and verb:

Veux-tu sortir ce soir? (Do you want to go out tonight?)
Vous levez-vous avec le soleil? (Do you get up with the sun?)


Nouns are not inverted. When a full noun is used as a subject, a subject pronoun must be added to the inversion:

Xavier et Jacqueline ont-ils réussi à l’examen? (Did Xavier and Jacqueline pass the test?)
Les professeurs ont-ils participé à la manifestation? (Did the professors participate in the demonstration?)

In compound tenses only the auxiliary is inverted:

Avez-vous compris le sens de ce mot? (Did you understand the meaning of this word?)

When the verb ends in a vowel, -t- is added for phonetic reasons:

Habite-t-il en ville ou à la campagne? (Does he live in town or in the country?)
Va-t-elle l’acheter ou pas? (Is she going to buy it or not?)

In inversion other pronouns (such as reflexive or direct object pronouns) remain unchanged:

Vous rendez-vous compte des conséquences? (Are you aware of the consequences?)
Ne me croyez-vous pas? (Don’t you believe me?)

(See also: Negatives — Use and formation, Interrogative adverbs, Interrogative pronouns.)

Interrogative adverbs

Simple interrogatives (see Interrogatives — formation) lead to a yes or no answer. To elicit more precise information, the interrogative adverbs (comment, pourquoi, quand, combien, and ) are helpful. They may be used with est-ce que constructions or with inversion:

Comment t’appelles-tu? (What’s your name?)
Où est-ce que tu vas? (Where are you going?)
Pourquoi veux-tu suivre ce cours? (Why do you want to take this class?)
Combien est-ce que tu gagnes par mois? (How much do you earn a month?)

In short questions using combien, comment, où, and quand, the noun itself may be inverted:

Où vont ces étudiants? (Where are these students going?)
Combien dépense une personne par jour? (How much does a person spend every day?)

(See also: Interrogatives — Formation, Interrogative pronouns.)

Interrogative pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used to elicit specific information about who has done what, and to whom. These pronouns may be used in est-ce que constructions or, usually, with inversions (note, however, that the subject pronoun will not invert). Which interrogative pronoun to use depends on whether the question focuses on a person or a thing, and whether the person or thing plays the grammatical role of subject, direct object, or object of a preposition. Here are the forms and their uses:

subject (person): qui est-ce qui, or qui + verb

Qui est-ce qui a fait ce tableau? (Who did this painting?)
Qui veut prendre une glace? (Who wants to get an ice cream?)

subject (thing): qu’est-ce qui

Qu’est-ce qui vous intéresse? (What interests you?)
Qu’est-ce qui est bon dans ce restaurant? (What is good in the restaurant?)

direct object (person): qui est-ce que, or qui + inverted verb

Qui est-ce que vous avez vu en France? (Whom did you see in France?)
Qui allez-vous rencontrer à cette réception? (Whom are you going to meet at this reception?)

direct object (thing): qu’est-ce que, or que + inverted verb

Qu’est-ce que tu veux faire ce soir? (What do you want to do this evening?)
Que préparez-vous? (What are you preparing?)

prepositional object (person): preposition + qui + est-ce que, or preposition + qui + inversion

À qui pensez-vous? (Who are you thinking about?)
De qui est-ce que vous parlez? (Who are you talking about?)

prepositional object (thing): preposition + quoi + est-ce que, or preposition + quoi + inversion

Avec quoi l’avez-vous ouvert? (What did you open it with?)
En quoi est-ce que ça te regarde? (In what way does that concern you?)

Quel and Lequel. The adjective quel (and its other forms quelle, quels, quelles) is used to mean what or which. When the noun is left out, the pronoun form lequel (laquelle, lesquels, lesquelles) is used, meaning which one. Quel and lequel can be used with est-ce que or with inversion:

Quel film voulez-vous voir? (What film do you want to see?)
Quelle date as-tu choisie? (Which date did you choose?)
Voici deux pizzas. Laquelle est-ce que vous préférez? (Here are two pizzas. Which one do you prefer?)

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