Asked • 03/21/19

Choosing Between Intonation/Est-ce que/Inversion Question Forms?

Bonjour à tous!I'm a bit confused when it comes to choosing how to word a question in French. Like most, if not all of you, I learned that there are 3 ways to ask questions: 1. Intonation: just raise the pitch of your voice at the end of the question 2. Est-ce que: add est-ce que to the beginning of the question 3. Inversion: ask the question in verb-subject order instead of subject-verbHowever, despite understanding how to *construct* questions, I'm often unsure as to which form is most appropriate in which situations. Through schooling, I currently think of each question form in the following ways: 1. Intonation: reserved strictly for oral communication, informal setting 2. Est-ce que: the safest bet; just about always appropriate 3. Inversion: the most formal/polite question formWith that being said, here are some experiences that have contradicted what I learned in school: - I once asked my French friend, "Il est gentil?" (intonation) in person, but he told me that what I should've asked was "Est-il gentil?" (inversion). Confusion: why must I use inversion here if I'm talking to a friend? Is the difference comparable to a "He's nice?" (confirming what the asker thinks before having his/her question answered) vs. "Is he nice?" (asking because the asker really does not know)? - My friend recently asked me "As-tu lu l'article que je t'ai envoyé?" over text. Why is there inversion here? Is it a question of oral vs. written communication? Is this something friends would ask each other in person, or would they go with "Tu as lu l'article que je t'ai envoyé?" (intonation)? - I said "tu pourrais bouger un peu s'il te plaît?" to an acquaintance once and was told that it's "pourrais-tu." Is this just particular to pouvoir in the conditional? - I've been noticing more and more that inversion is used when question words like "pourquoi", "comment", "que" are used. Is this the case for all questions words like these, in all cases (formal/informal, written/oral)?Thanks in advance for any input. Really curious to hear what you have to say :)

2 Answers By Expert Tutors


Olivia M. answered • 03/22/19

New to Wyzant

Experienced Tutor Specializing in French And English

Still looking for help? Get the right answer, fast.

Ask a question for free

Get a free answer to a quick problem.
Most questions answered within 4 hours.


Find an Online Tutor Now

Choose an expert and meet online. No packages or subscriptions, pay only for the time you need.