Asking questions in French with "qui/que/quoi/quand/où/comment/pourquoi/combien" (French Question Words)

In the most basic form of questions, these question words can be used:

qui who
que/quoi what
quand when
where
comment how
pourquoi why
combien how much

Let's see the three ways to use them:

 

1. Use intonation with a normal statement

In that very simple case, most of the time question words would be at the end of the statement, but they can also sometimes be at the beginning of the statement.
The question will be marked with a querying tone (and in written form with a question mark):
Comment tu vas ?How are you?

Tu vas comment ?How are you?

Tu viens quand ?When are you coming?

Pourquoi il ne veut pas jouer ?Why doesn't he want to play?

ATTENTION:
What can only be at the end of the sentence, and you use quoi and NOT que.

C'est quoi ?What is it?

On va faire quoi demain ?What are we going to do tomorrow?


In who + [verb] questions - (who does, who cooks...?) - qui is always at the beginning of the question - (qui fait, qui cuisine...?) - BUT in other cases, such as whom... or who is it?, qui can be in either place.

Qui fait la vaisselle ce soir ?Who washes the dishes tonight?

C'est qui ?Who is it?

Qui c'est ?Who is it?

Elle aime qui ?Who(m) does she love?


See Qui/Qui est-ce qui [conjugated verb] ? = Who ... ? (French Questions) and Qui/Qui est-ce que ... ? = Whom ... ? (French Questions).

 

2. With est-ce que...

You place the question word before est-ce que followed by the statement in a normal order. This is a common way to start a question.
est-ce que tu vas ?Where are you going?

Quand est-ce que vous quittez Chicago?When do you leave Chicago?

Combien est-ce que ça coûte?How much does it cost?

Qu'est-ce qu'elle veut faire?What does she want to do?
-> Note that in this last case, que becomes qu' because it's in front of a vowel.

 

3. Use the "inverted question" form

You use the question word at the beginning of the sentence, followed by the inverted verb and then the subject. This is a more elegant and more formal way to ask questions in French.
Qui est-ce ?Who is it?

Pourquoi ont-ils des rayures ?Why have they got stripes?

Quand partent-ils pour Québec ?When are they leaving for Quebec City?

Comment vas-tu ?How are you?
 

ATTENTION: in the inverted form, quoi becomes que or qu' :

Que veut-il ?What does he want?

Qu'écoutes-tu à la radio ?What do you listen to on the radio?

These question words are always placed at the start with inverted forms.

See also Que + [inverted statement] ? = What ... ? (French Questions) and Inverted questions in the present tense (Le Présent) in French - il/elle/on forms

 

For more question types, see also:

Asking yes/no questions in French with intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas (French Questions)

Inverted questions in the present tense (Le Présent) in French - regular forms (except il/elle/on forms)

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Examples and resources

Quand est-ce que vous quittez Chicago?When do you leave Chicago?
Quand partent-ils pour Québec ?When are they leaving for Quebec City?
est-ce que tu vas ?Where are you going?
Combien est-ce que ça coûte?How much does it cost?
Combien je te dois ?How much do I owe you?
Comment tu vas ?How are you?
Qu'écoutes-tu à la radio ?What do you listen to on the radio?
Qu'est-ce que vous voulez ?What do you want?
Tu vas comment ?How are you?
Pourquoi ont-ils des rayures ?Why have they got stripes?
Comment est-ce qu'il fait ça ?How does he do that?
Comment vas-tu ?How are you?
Qu'est-ce qu'elle veut faire?What does she want to do?
Que veut-il ?What does he want?
Tu viens quand ?When are you coming?
Pourquoi il ne veut pas jouer ?Why doesn't he want to play?
On va faire quoi demain ?What are we going to do tomorrow?
Qui c'est ?Who is it?
Qui fait la vaisselle ce soir ?Who washes the dishes tonight?
Elle aime qui ?Who(m) does she love?

forwards


C'est quand ?When is it?
C'est combien ?How much is that?
Pourquoi tu rigoles?Why are you laughing?
C'est où ?Where is it?
C'est qui ?Who is it?
Tu fais ça comment ?How are you doing that?
C'est quoi ?What is it?

inverted


Qu'est-ce?What is it?
Qui est-ce ?Who is it?
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