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Questions: Que ... = What ... ?

Look at these more formal questions:

Qu'aimez-vous?
What do you like?

Que veut Paul?
What does Paul want?

Que penses-tu?
What do you think?

Que dessinent les enfants?
What are the children drawing?

To ask a question starting with what, the more formal way is to use que followed by the inverted form of the statement (verb first).

Note that que becomes qu' when followed by a vowel.

 

ATTENTION:
The main difference with qu'est-ce que is that this alternative form is never followed by the inverted form when using subject pronouns

Qu'est-ce que vous aimez ?
What do you like?

Qu'est-ce que tu penses ?
What do you think?

Compare this lesson with other ways to make questions:

Forming inverted questions in Le Présent with il, elle, on

Forming inverted questions in Le Présent (except il, elle, on forms)

Asking yes/no questions with intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas 

Questions with qui, que, quoi, quand, où, comment, pourquoi, combien 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Qu'est-ce que tu penses ?
What do you think?


Que dessinent les enfants?
What are the children drawing?


Que penses-tu?
What do you think?


Que veut Paul?
What does Paul want?


Qu'est-ce que vous aimez ?
What do you like?


Qu'aimez-vous?
What do you like?


Q&A

Rebecca

Kwiziq community member

11 June 2018

3 replies

Also confused about inversion being more formal. I learned that Qu'est-ce que vous aimez? is more formal than Qu'aimez vous?. Did I learn it wrong?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

12 June 2018

12/06/18

Hi Rebecca,


It is the other way round.


I know that is is tempting for an English student to want to prefer the inversion as it is used in English. However in French out of the three ways of forming questions, it will be the  least favoured particularly in simple questions as it sounds not only formal but pompous.


But we have to teach it...


Hope this helps!


 

Rebecca

Kwiziq community member

12 June 2018

12/06/18

Gotcha. So to clarify:


Qu'est-ce que vous aimez? - formal, but overly so and thus not preferred - maybe antiquated?


Qu'aimez vous? - appropriately formal, sounds current and natural


and of course the 'tu' forms are just informal.


Have I got that right?

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

13 June 2018

13/06/18

Hi Rebecca,


'Quest-ce-que vous aimez?' is more informal and colloquial than the inversion of the subject and verb in 'Qu'aimez-vous?'.


In spoken French you will hear an awful lot of 'est-ce-que' for asking questions so you have to be able to recognise it and preferably use when appropriate.


In written French , the inversion will be preferred as more formal. It is not antiquated just more formal.


Hope this helps!


 

Stewart

Kwiziq community member

28 January 2018

2 replies

Inversion is described as 'the more formal way' and also as 'the more elegant way'. Please clarify.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

29 January 2018

29/01/18

In French, like in all languages, there are different ways to say the same thing, depending on the setting in which you find yourself. For example, when talking to your brother you would say, "Hi, what's up, bro! It's awesome you came to visit me!" To express the same intention but toward the President of the US, you would formulate it differently: "Good morning, Mr. President" I am certainly delighted you could come and visit me!"

The same holds true in French. Usually, the inverted form of formulating a question is considered more formal:

Comment-appelez-vous? -- What is your name? (formal register)
Tu t'appelles comment? -- What is your name? (familar register)

Here is a more in-depth link to an article discussing registers in the French language: https://www.thoughtco.com/french-register-1369374

-- Chris (not a native speaker).

Stewart

Kwiziq community member

29 January 2018

29/01/18

Thanks Chris, I had thought of 'elegant' and 'formal' as being quite different in meaning but I now see, in this context, that they have a similar meaning.

Héctor

Kwiziq community member

12 November 2016

1 reply

ww3

Bonjour. Im sorry, but I dont completely get the difference between this questions and the "qu'est-ce que" questions. Can you put here some examples and maybe some rules to contrast both, please?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

22 November 2016

22/11/16

Bonjour Héctor !

Thanks for this suggestion, I've now added examples to the lesson as well as explanations.

I hope that's helpful!

Judy

Kwiziq community member

14 October 2016

1 reply

What about ce que. not sure when to add the 'ce'

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 October 2016

14/10/16

Bonjour Judy !

First of all, remember that "ce que" is never used to ASK a question, so no ambiguity there :)
As for the difference of usage between "que" and "ce que" when they introduce a clause in a sentence, here is the link to a lesson which should clarify that point for you:
https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/ce-que-what-which-relative-pronouns

I hope that's helpful!

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 June 2016

3 replies

''Qu'aiment-ils?''

I understand why this is a contraction of "Que aiment" and therefore means What do they like, but why can't it also be a contraction of "Qui aiment" and therefore Who do they love?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

2 June 2016

2/06/16

Bonjour Chris !


The answer is simple: you cannot never contract qui into qu', as it ends in 'i' and not 'e'.


I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

ly fen

Kwiziq community member

22 June 2016

22/06/16

Bonjour, sometimes they write " si l'on ferait cela?" why there's the letter "L" between the si et on? thanks in advance.

HemaKumari

Kwiziq community member

23 January 2018

23/01/18

I thinks it's because the 'le' (equivalent of 'it') is contracted to l' in front of a vowel
so the sentence without the contractions would be: si le on ferait cela?
Getting that for you now.