When forming questions in French, there are several key interrogative words that are used to ask different types of questions. Here are some of the most common interrogative words in French:
|Interrogative Word||English Translation||Example Question|
|Qui||Who||Qui est là? (Who is there?)|
|Que/Qu'||What||Qu'est-ce que c'est? (What is it?)|
|Où||Where||Où vas-tu? (Where are you going?)|
|Quand||When||Quand partez-vous? (When are you leaving?)|
|Comment||How||Comment dit-on «cat» en français? (How do you say "cat" in French?)|
|Pourquoi||Why||Pourquoi êtes-vous en retard? (Why are you late?)|
|Combien||How much/How many||Combien coûte cette chemise? (How much does this shirt cost?)|
1. Qui - Who
Qui is used to ask who did something or who something is referring to. For example:
- Qui est-ce? Who is that?
- Qui t’a donné ce livre? Who gave you that book?
2. Que/Qu' - What
Que (or qu’ before a vowel) is used to ask what something is or what happened. For example:
- Qu’est-ce que c’est? What is that?
- Qu’as-tu fait hier? What did you do yesterday?
3. Où - Where
Où asks where something is or where an action takes place. For example:
- Où vas-tu? Where are you going?
- Où se trouve le musée? Where is the museum located?
4. Quand - When
Quand asks when something happened or will happen. For example:
- Quand est-ce que tu arrives? When will you arrive?
- Quand est ton anniversaire? When is your birthday?
5. Comment - How
Comment asks how something was done or how something happens. For example:
- Comment vas-tu? How are you? (How are you doing?)
- Comment sais-tu la réponse? How do you know the answer?
6. Pourquoi - Why
Pourquoi asks why something happened or for what reason. For example:
- Pourquoi es-tu en retard? Why are you late?
- Pourquoi pleures-tu? Why are you crying?
7. Combien - How much/How many
Combien asks about a quantity of something. For example:
- Combien coûte cette chemise ? How much does this shirt cost?
- Combien de personnes sont là? How many people are there?
8. Lequel/Laquelle - Which
Used to ask which person or thing among many is being referred to. For example:
- Laquelle de ces robes préfères-tu ? Which of these dresses do you prefer?
- Lequel de vous vient de France ? Which one of you is from France?
9. Quel/Quelle - What/Which
Used to ask about the identity or nature of something. For example:
- Quel âge as-tu ? What age are you? (How old are you?)
- Quelle belle maison! What a beautiful house!
10. Où est-ce que - Where
This is the interrogative phrase “where is it that…” in French. For example:
- Où est-ce que vous avez rencontré ? Where did you meet?
11. Qu'est-ce que c'est
Qu’est-ce que c’est – What is it that Used to ask what something is. The “que” can be omitted in informal speech. For example:
- Qu’est-ce que c’est que cela ? What is that?
- Qu’est-ce que tu fais ? What are you doing?
Common questions about interrogative words in French
When do you use “que” versus “qu'”?
Use “que” when it comes before a consonant sound, and “qu’” when it comes before a vowel sound or silent h. For example:
Que veux-tu? (What do you want?) Qu’as-tu fait? (What did you do?)
What is the difference between “où” and “où est-ce que”?
“Où” by itself means “where”, while “où est-ce que” is used to soften the question as “where is it that…”
How do you ask “what is it” questions in French?
Use “Qu’est-ce que c’est” or just “Qu’est-ce que” informally. For example:
Qu’est-ce que c’est que cela? (What is that?) Qu’est-ce que tu fais? (What are you doing?)
Do interrogative adverbs like “quand” change in questions?
No, words like quand (when), comment (how), and pourquoi (why) do not change form in questions.
Learning and practicing these common interrogative words in French will help you form basic questions needed for conversation. Start by memorizing the words, practice using them in example sentences, and try incorporating them when speaking French.