Questions and requests
The easiest way to ask a question
If you want to ask a question in French, an easy way to do this is to make a statement and raise your voice at the end.
Tu aimes le fromage - You like cheese
Tu aimes le fromage? (with voice raised at the end) - Do you like cheese?
Nous allons au parc - We are going to the park
Nous allons au parc? (with voice raised at the end) - Are we going to the park?
Using ‘modal’ verbs and ‘infinitives’ to make requests
Modal verbs express ability, permission, obligation or desire (i.e. things you want to do).
Examples of modal verbs in English are ‘can’, ‘must’ or ‘want’.
An infinitive is always needed after modal verbs such as devoir (to have to), pouvoir (can/to be able to) and often -but not always- after vouloir (to want) and falloir (to be necessary).
You can use the je part of the verb pouvoir or devoir to make a request in French:
Create your statement.
Raise your voice to turn this into a question.
- Je peux aller aux toilettes s’il vous plait? - Can I go to the toilet please?
(Literally ‘I can go to the toilets please’)
- Je peux emprunter une gomme s’il vous plait? - Can I borrow a rubber please?
(Literally ‘I can borrow a rubber please’)
- Je dois faire mes devoirs pour lundi? - Do I have to do my homework for Monday?
(Literally ‘I must do my homework for Monday’)
Using ‘Est-ce que’ to form questions
Often, French people start a question with est-ce que...?
Est-ce que has no real meaning when on its own. Its function is to turn a statement into a question.
Est-ce que je peux manger en classe? - Can I eat in class?
Est-ce qu'il y a des choses à faire? - Are there things to do?
Common question words in French
The most useful question words are:
|Que… ?/ Qu'est-ce que… ?||What...?|
|Combien (de)?||How much / How many?|
|À quelle heure?||(At) what time?|
|Combien de temps?||How long?|
Put the question word at the start of the sentence and switch the verb and subject around.
Où habites-tu? - Where do you live?
Que vas-tu faire demain? - What are you going to do tomorrow?
Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz on making requests.