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Thread: FR: De quoi / Que + inversion complexe

  1. #1
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    FR: De quoi / Que + inversion complexe

    De quoi traite ce film ?
    Que créa Pierre ?

    I've been reading through a grammar manual that stated that the complex inversion is possible in this case. However, it seems to me, that this is hardly used in these two cases ?

    De quoi ce film traite-t-il ?
    Que Pierre créa-t-il ?

    Basically those two sentences are grammatically correct...but there seems to be a snag somewhere, can someone help me find it?
    - I loathe people who keep dogs, they are cowards who do not have the stomach to bite people themselves - August Strindberg

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Yes, it's correct but very formal as well. You're much more likely to hear De quoi est-ce que ce film traite ? or (the most common) Ce film traite (parle) de quoi ?
    Der Weise sucht die Weisheit, der Narr hat sie gefunden. - G. C. Lichtenberg, Aphorismen.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Thanks you Seeda,

    So both the "normal" inversion and "complex" inversion in this case are to be considered "formal" ?
    - I loathe people who keep dogs, they are cowards who do not have the stomach to bite people themselves - August Strindberg

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Yes, just having the subject and the verb switched makes it sound quite formal.
    Der Weise sucht die Weisheit, der Narr hat sie gefunden. - G. C. Lichtenberg, Aphorismen.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Quote Originally Posted by Pure_Yvesil View Post
    De quoi traite ce film ?
    Que créa Pierre ?

    I've been reading through a grammar manual that stated that the complex inversion is possible in this case. However, it seems to me, that this is hardly used in these two cases ?

    De quoi ce film traite-t-il ?
    Que Pierre créa-t-il ?

    Basically those two sentences are grammatically correct...but there seems to be a snag somewhere, can someone help me find it?
    The first of these questions is correct. The second, even though correctly formed, is never used.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    What do you mean, geostan, by 'never'? In literature and written texts, it's still very common - it's just disappeared from oral speech mainly.

    Written French and spoken French are very different things.
    Der Weise sucht die Weisheit, der Narr hat sie gefunden. - G. C. Lichtenberg, Aphorismen.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    I realize that the word never should never be used in talking about grammar, but my understanding is that Que + complex inversion was last used in the 19th century. It surprises me that "Que Pierre crea-t-il?" is still being used.
    Last edited by geostan; 6th March 2012 at 2:18 PM. Reason: I forgot to add the noun Pierre.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    I disagree basically with any such statement as "normal /complex inversion has disappeared from everyday speech".
    You may say you don't use it, or you don't hear it, but others do, and you can't hear (or notice) everything.
    Have you never heard "comment allez-vous ?"

    At this precise moment I'm listening to the radio, and some debater is asking "en quoi le mariage gay est-il une menace pour la société ?".
    Not "en quoi est-ce que...".
    ...Ferme ni plus ni moins que l'étoile du nord.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Quote Originally Posted by geostan View Post
    my understanding is that Que + complex inversion was last used in the 19th century.
    For complex inversion after interrogative que, see the grammar excerpts in this post of mine in another thread. Here are the examples cited by Grevisse, with dates:
    • Que tout cela serait-il devenu si mon absence se fût prolongée ? (J.-J. Ampère, 19th c.)
    • Que Pellerin devrait-il dire à Ermance ? (La Varende, 1957)
    • Que cela change-t-il ? (Vialar, 1957)
    • Que M. Pierre Sabbagh pourrait-il demander de mieux ? (Le Cyclope [= M. Chapelan], 1969.)
    • Que cela cache-t-il ? (M. Droit, 1978)
    • Que Freud ici nous a-t-il apporté ? (J. Lacan, 1958)
    Last edited by CapnPrep; 6th March 2012 at 12:56 PM. Reason: + exs

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Quote Originally Posted by JeanDeSponde View Post
    I disagree basically with any such statement as "normal /complex inversion has disappeared from everyday speech".
    You may say you don't use it, or you don't hear it, but others do, and you can't hear (or notice) everything.
    Have you never heard "comment allez-vous ?"

    At this precise moment I'm listening to the radio, and some debater is asking "en quoi le mariage gay est-il une menace pour la société ?".
    Not "en quoi est-ce que...".
    Comment allez-vous is taught to foreigners as a standard translation to 'How are you?' but, in fact, it's only common in the upper class, which is but a small part of the population. If I came up to my boss and said Comment allez-vous ? she would probably think I'm being overly polite.

    Also, a radio talk show is not everyday conversation.
    Der Weise sucht die Weisheit, der Narr hat sie gefunden. - G. C. Lichtenberg, Aphorismen.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Quote Originally Posted by Seeda View Post
    Comment allez-vous is [...] only common in the upper class, which is but a small part of the population. .
    "Upper class" — culturally, socially...? posh...?
    Quote Originally Posted by Seeda View Post
    Also, a radio talk show is not everyday conversation.
    Then say that it's not common in your everyday conversation. The debater was no Académicien, just a plain guy, uttering a reasonable number of grammar errors besides...
    Once again, I'm not saying it's very common: I'm just saying that is is far from having disappeared.
    There is not one spoken French, as there is not one written French.
    ...Ferme ni plus ni moins que l'étoile du nord.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Quote Originally Posted by JeanDeSponde View Post
    I disagree basically with any such statement as "normal /complex inversion has disappeared from everyday speech".
    You may say you don't use it, or you don't hear it, but others do, and you can't hear (or notice) everything.
    Have you never heard "comment allez-vous ?"

    At this precise moment I'm listening to the radio, and some debater is asking "en quoi le mariage gay est-il une menace pour la société ?".
    Not "en quoi est-ce que...".
    My comments were directed specifcally towards the interrogative que + complex inversion, not other interrogatives, such as en quoi, comment, etc. I note that CapnPrep has found examples of the very structure I was commenting on. All I can say is that I am surprised. Decades ago, when I was a budding French teacher, I used this structure at a teacher's college, and was told to avoid it as it was rare at best and might as well be considered incorrect.

    Having further reflected on this, I can see some possibilities with que + complex inversion. For example, a unique noun subject might use it:
    Que Dieu créa-t-Il en sept jours? But in ordinary situations where simple inversion is possible, it seems pedantic to resort to the complex form.

    e.g. Que Jean a-t-il dit quand tu as mentionné cette possibilité? One could more simply say: Qu'a dit Jean quand...
    Last edited by geostan; 6th March 2012 at 2:31 PM. Reason: Further commenting

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    Que Pierre créa-t-il ? is not used, AFAIK.
    The examples given by CapnPrep are interesting because these are cases where I would naturally "complexify" the questions, e.g. qu'est-ce que Freud nous a apporté ?, though (as I said before) I tend naturally not to do it with "normal" questions.
    (Except maybe for Que cela change-t-il ?, which is what I would naturally have said.)
    Though I would probably not "see" those "que + C.I." in a book (I mean, not mark them as erroneous or recherchés).
    Last edited by JeanDeSponde; 6th March 2012 at 3:10 PM. Reason: Edited after Geostan editing...
    ...Ferme ni plus ni moins que l'étoile du nord.

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    Re: De quoi/Que + inversion complexe

    See my correction in post #7. In addition, I've added some thoughts in post #12.

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