French Grammar: Asking Yes – No Questions

French Grammar: Asking Yes - No Questions

French Grammar: Asking Yes – No Questions

Identify:

French Grammar: Asking Yes – No Questions
la grammaire française: poser les questions “oui – non”

A “Yes / No” question is a question that can be answered simply by ”Yes” or “No”.  Asking questions is a basic, but important, communication skill in French, just as it is in English!

Study:

A “Yes / No” question is a question that can be answered simply by ”Yes” or “No”.  Asking questions is a basic, but important, communication skill in French, just as it is in English!

There are several ways to ask a “Yes / No” question in French.  Most of these are similar to the ways we can do this in English.  A statement is the basic building block for asking most “Yes / No” questions in French.

FIRST METHOD:

The first (and easiest!) way to ask a “Yes / No” question is to simply use your voice intonation to turn a statement into a question.  When making a statement, your voice intonation normally drops at the end of the sentence.  When asking a “Yes / No” question, your voice should rise at the end of the question.  (We do this in English, too!)

STATEMENT:
Tu parles français. : You speak French.

QUESTION:
Tu parles français?
 : (Do) You speak French?

SECOND METHOD:

A second way to ask a “Yes / No” question is to use EST-CE QUE (pronounced ‘ESS-kuh’) before the statement.  EST-CE QUE has no translation – it just acts like a question mark.  We also use rising intonation at the end of the question when using EST-CE QUE.

STATEMENT:
Tu parles français. : You speak French.


QUESTION:
Est-ce que tu parles français? : Do you speak French?

Note that before a vowel or silent letter ‘h’, EST-CE QUE becomes EST-CE QU’ (pronounced ‘ESSK’).

STATEMENT:
Il parle français. : He speaks French.

QUESTION:
Est-ce qu’il parle français?
 : Does he speak French?

THIRD METHOD:

If you anticipate that the answer to your “Yes / No” question is probably going to be “Yes”, you can use either N’EST-CE PAS (pronounced ‘ness-PAH’) or NON at the end of the statement.  N’EST-CE PAS is the equivalent of “right?”; “isn’t that so?”; “don’t you/we/they?”; or  “isn’t/doesn’t he/she/it?” in English.  We also use rising intonation at the end of the question when using either N’EST-CE PAS? or NON.

STATEMENT:
Tu parles français. : You speak French.

QUESTION:
Tu parles français, n’est-ce pas?
 : You speak French, right?

STATEMENT:
Tu parles français. : You speak French.


QUESTION:
Tu parles français, non?
 : You speak French, don’t you?

FOURTH METHOD:

One other way to ask “Yes / No” questions is called INVERSION. INVERSION is used much more in written French than in spoken French.  And even in written French, it is almost never used with the first person singular (JE).  With INVERSION, the subject pronoun and the conjugated verb are reversed and joined by a hyphen.  Rising voice intonation also occurs at the end of a question using inversion.

STATEMENT:
Tu parles français. : You speak French.

QUESTION:
Parles-tu
français?
 : Do you speak French?

When using inversion with IL, ELLE, or ON and a verb that ends in a vowel (this will usually be an -ER verb), “-t-“ must be added between the verb and the pronoun in order to separate the vowels. The reason for doing this is that inserting that “-t-“ just sounds better to a French speaker’s ear.

STATEMENT:
Il parle français. : He speaks French.

QUESTION:
Parle-t-il français?
 : Does he speak French?

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ANSWERING QUESTIONS: When answering questions, always pay attention to the subject pronoun used in the question. The subject pronoun in the answer will be based on which subject pronoun was used in the question.

If the question is asked of you, the answer is in the I form; If the question asks about he, then the answer is also about he, etc.

Here is a complete listing:

If the question asks: JE ?
In the answer, use: TU or VOUS (depending on your relationship with the speaker)

If the question asks: TU ?
In the answer, use: JE

If the question asks: IL ?
In the answer, use: IL

If the question asks: ELLE ?
In the answer, use: ELLE

If the question asks: NOUS ?
In the answer, use: NOUS or VOUS (depending on whether or not you yourself are part of the group)

If the question asks: VOUS ?
In the answer, use: JE or NOUS (depends on whether the question is asked only of you or of you + others)

If the question asks: ILS ?
In the answer, use: ILS

If the question asks: ELLES ?
In the answer, use: ELLES

Adapt:

Tu aimes nager?

Do you (informal) like to swim?

Oui, j’aime nager.
Yes, I like to swim.

Vous avez des devoirs ce soir?

Do y’all have homework tonight?

Non, nous n’avons pas de devoirs ce soir.

No, we don’t have homework tonight.

Est-ce que vous voyagez beaucoup?

Do you (formal) travel a lot?

Oui, je voyage beaucoup.

Yes, I travel a lot.

Est-ce qu’ils sont étudiants?

Are they students?

Oui, ils sont étudiants.
Yes, they are students.

Vous étudiez le français, n’est-ce pas?
Y’all study French, right?

Oui, j’étudie le français.

Yes, I study French.

Elle est américaine, non?

She is American, isn’t she?

Oui, elle est américaine.
Yes, she is American.

Danse-t-elle bien?

Does she dance well?

Non, elle ne danse pas bien.

No, she doesn’t dance well.

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