French Grammar: Asking Questions – Interrogative Adverbs


French Grammar: Asking Questions – Interrogative Adverbs
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French Grammar: Asking Questions – Interrogative Adverbs
les adverbs interrogatifs

French Interrogatives (les interrogatifs) are words that are used to ask questions! (They interrogate!) Asking different kinds of questions will help you manage every kind of day-to-day interaction in French. You need to ask questions in order to find out what’s going on!


A “yes/no” question is one that can simply be answered by “yes” or “no”.  There are basically four ways to ask simple “yes/no” questions in French:

1. Use rising voice inflection at the end of a statement:

Tu travailles?

2. Use Est-ce que (qu’) at the beginning of a statement, along with rising voice inflection.

Est-ce que tu travailles?

3. Use n’est-ce pas? at the end of a statement, along with rising voice inflection

Tu travailles, n’est-ce pas?

4. Use inversion (place the verb before the subject)


Interrogative Adverbs (les adverbs interrogatifs) are words that are used to ask for more detail than simply “yes” or “no”. (They interrogate!)

The most common interrogative adverbs (question words) in French are:

 : when?
 : where?
D’OÙ? : from where?
 : why?
 : how?
 : how much? how many?

French interrogative adverbs help to ask information-seeking questions by using…

(a) intonation (rising voice inflection)
(b) est-ce que”
(c) inversion.

(a) In spoken French, an interrogative adverb is often placed after the verb to form a question, and one’s voice inflection rises on the question word.  This is intonation.  (NOTE:  ‘Pourquoi’ is the exception here.) :

Le bus arrive quand?
The bus arrives when?
(When does the bus arrive?)

(b) When a question starts with an interrogative adverb, est-ce que (or est-ce qu’) will often be used after that interrogative adverb. :

Pourquoi est-ce qu’elle pleure?
Why is she crying?

(c)  It’s also possible to begin a question with an interrogative adverb followed by a verb and its subject (the noun that’s being identified).  Switching the order from subject pronoun+verb to verb+subject pronoun is called inversion. :

Comment allez-vous?
How are you (formal)?

NOTE:  With combien, comment, où, d’où, and quand, when the subject is a noun (instead of a pronoun) and the verb has no object, the order of the subject and the verb can be inverted to form a question. :

Quand arrive le professeur?
When arrives the professor?
(When does the professor arrive?)

There are a few other rules to follow when asking questions in French:

– In English, we use helping words like DO / DOES or AM / IS / ARE when asking questions. In French, this is not necessary because it’s implied in the question.

– Prepositions (à, de (d’), avec, dans, pour …) are required in front of the interrogative adverb. They should not appear at the end of the sentence! :

D’où vient Louis?
From where does Louis come?
(Where does Louis come from?)

INTERROGATIVE ADVERBS (les adverbes interrogatifs) IN ACTION:

QUAND? : when?

Quand est ton anniversaire?
When is your birthday?

OÙ? : where?

Where do you (formal) live?

D’OÙ? : from where?

Ils sont d’où?
They (masculine) are from where? (Where are they from?)

POURQUOI? : why?

Pourquoi est-ce que tu étudies le français?
Why are you (informal) studying French?

COMMENT? : how?

Comment vas-tu?
How are you (informal)?

COMBIEN? : how much? how many?

Combien coûte la voiture?
How much does the car cost?


Quand étudies-tu?
When do you (informal) study?

Où est la maison grise?
Where is the grey house?

Les touristes viennent d’où?
Where do the tourists come from?

Pourquoi est-ce que le ciel est bleu?
Why is the sky blue?

Comment t’appelles-tu?
What is your (informal) name?

Combien font deux et deux?
How much are two plus two?


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