The Many Ways To Ask A Question In French

I'm not planning on making loads of French lessons, but I noticed the way questions can be asked in French sometimes turns out to be a bit of a problem for lyrics translators. I hope this will shed some light for you.

Remember French has basically three chief language registers:

1. soutenu (formal) : used in very polite company and in the written language
2. courant (≃neutral, usual) : usable in most contexts
3. familier (informal, colloquial) : used with friends, relatives or young people

1. Question soutenue

Formal question consists in swapping the subject with the verb.

Vous êtes suédois. (You are Swedish.) → affirmative sentence
question → Etes-vous suédois ? (Are you Swedish?)
See: vous êtes / êtes-vous ? // you are / are you?
Note that you have to link the verb and the subject with a hyphen (-); to omit it is considered to be a misspelling.

So far this is pretty easy for English-speakers inasmuch as the verb 'to be' does not require the auxiliary 'do' in the question. In fact questions in French cannot be phrased with an auxiliary such as 'do' in English.

Vous aimez l'art. (You like art.)
Aimez-vous l'art ? (Do you like art?)

2. Question courante

Usual questions solely requires particle est-ce que /EHS-kuh/.
It is placed at the very beginning of the sentence in a yes-or-no question, or right after the Wh- word.

Je suis lunatique. (I'm moody.)
Est-ce que je suis lunatique ? (Am I moody?)
Il est malade. (He is sick.)
Est-ce qu'il est malade ? (Is he sick?) [Don't forget to contract que into qu' before a vowel.]
est-ce qu'elles sont ? (Where are they (females)?)

3. Question familière

The simplest one, because all you have to do is raise your intonation. The structure of the sentence isn't altered.

Tu cours vite. (You run fast.)
Tu cours vite ? (D'you run fast?)

In this type of questions, Wh- word is generally placed at the end.

Il est parti de chez ses parents quand ? (When did he leave his parents' place?)

Don't hesitate to ask any questions; it'll be a pleasure to answer.

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