FR: De quoi / Que + inversion complexe

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by Pure_Yvesil, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. Pure_Yvesil

    Pure_Yvesil Senior Member

    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? ;)
     
  2. Seeda

    Seeda Senior Member

    Metz
    法语 / French (FR)
    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 ?
     
  3. Pure_Yvesil

    Pure_Yvesil Senior Member

    Thanks you Seeda,

    So both the "normal" inversion and "complex" inversion in this case are to be considered "formal" ?
     
  4. Seeda

    Seeda Senior Member

    Metz
    法语 / French (FR)
    Yes, just having the subject and the verb switched makes it sound quite formal.
     
  5. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    The first of these questions is correct. The second, even though correctly formed, is never used.
     
  6. Seeda

    Seeda Senior Member

    Metz
    法语 / French (FR)
    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.
     
  7. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    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. :confused:
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  8. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    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...".
     
  9. CapnPrep Senior Member

    France
    AmE
    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: Mar 6, 2012
  10. Seeda

    Seeda Senior Member

    Metz
    法语 / French (FR)
    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.
     
  11. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    "Upper class":confused: — culturally, socially...? posh...?
    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.
     
  12. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

    English Canada
    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: Mar 6, 2012
  13. JeanDeSponde

    JeanDeSponde Senior Member

    France, Lyon area
    France, Français
    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: Mar 6, 2012
  14. geostan

    geostan Senior Member

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

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