FR: est-ce que / inversion sujet-verbe / intonation - question

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by jorge_val_ribera, Jun 11, 2005.

  1. jorge_val_ribera

    jorge_val_ribera Senior Member

    Hello everybody!

    It's me again with a question about how to make questions. :)

    Well, I know that the forms "verb-person" and "est-ce que person verb" are "interchangeable":

    As-tu vu le film?
    Est-ce que tu as vu le film?

    But I wondered, how interchangeable are they really? Do both mean exactly the same and would you use both normally?

    And how would you use the "est-ce que..." as an alternative for a sentence like N'avez-vous pas mangé? ? Would it be Est-ce que vous n'avez pas mangé? ?

    Besides, what happens when the subject is not tu or vous or something like that, but for example ton père:

    Est-ce que ton père regarde le match?

    Couldn't you build there a "verb-person" question?

    Merci beaucoup!

    Moderator note: Multiple threads have been merged to create this one.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2011
  2. JohninVirginia Senior Member

    USA/ English
    I think it is okay to ask, "Regarde ton pere le match ?"

    But a francophone may correct me.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 13, 2011
  3. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    Both have the same meaning.
    The former (As-tu vu) is more formal, the latter (Est-ce que tu as vu) more colloquial.
    Right. But in spoken language, "est-ce que" is rarely use in such sentences, with a negated verb. We'd say "Tu n'as pas mangé ?". Grammatically incorrect , but often heard.
    Yes, you can, by adding the full subject before the regular interrogative construction with "il" : "Ton père regarde-t-il le match ?"
  4. OlivierG

    OlivierG Senior Member

    Toulouse, France
    France / Français
    No, sorry. The verb-person construction can only be made using "pronoms personnels" (je, tu, il, elle, nous, vous, ils, elles, on).
    When it occurs that the verb ends with a vowel, and the pronoun starts with a vowel too (il, elle, ils, elles, on), then a "-t-" is added between them to ease pronunciation :
    regarde il :cross:
    regarde-t-il :tick:
  5. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    True. It might be worth noting, however, that in some areas (in Normandy at least) subject-verb inversion isn't considered as formal and is the usual way of making questions even in spoken language. This surprised me when I came here.
    In Normandy (in the rural areas, at least) you often hear sentences such as
    "Viens-tu ?"
    "As-tu dîné ?" etc...
    which would sound very formal in other parts of France.
  6. gliamo Senior Member

    France, French
    As OlivierG said, it is not a correct sentence. However you could say:

    "Ton père regarde le match ?" (intonation is the key here)

    Same with "Tu as dîné ?", etc.

    Edit: As far as intonation is concerned, the pitch goes down at the end of an affirmative sentence ("Ton père regarde le match."), is more or less flat at the end of an est-ce que question ("Est-ce que ton père regarde le match ?"), and goes up at the end of the question that is built like an affirmation ("Ton père regarde le match ?").

  7. Kiost Member

    When asking a question which method is the most commonly used?

    Est-ce que tu danses?
    Danses-tu ?
    Tu danses ?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2011
  8. Blancheneige

    Blancheneige Senior Member

    Lac Léman, Switzerland
    Switzerland - French
    In common speech, you would use either:
    "Est-ce que tu danses?" (or "Est-ce que tu veux danser?"
    "Tu danses?"

    "Danses-tu?" is more formal/literary, and would be used in writing or in a very formal situation rather that in everyday language.
  9. mapping Senior Member

    Lille, France
    France, French
    est-ce que tu danses et tu danses are used in colloquial speeach to ask someone if they want to dance with you (also veux-tu danser, voulez-vous danser, more standard or formal)
    Danses-tu can mean the same but is more like a habit or hobby you do on a regular basis.
  10. genevois

    genevois Senior Member

    Genève, Suisse
    I still have questions that should belong to total beginners. But I'm not too shy to ask.

    If "A-t-il des livres ? " exists, what about "Ai-je des livres ?" or do I have to say "Est-ce que j'ai des livres ?" But I was told by a francophone that I should avoid using "est-ce que" for writing.

    Merci d'avance.
  11. carolineR

    carolineR Senior Member

    Indian Ocean
    "Ai-je des livres ?" or "Est-ce que j'ai des livres ?" are both perfect, in writing or not.
  12. Paf le chien

    Paf le chien Senior Member

    France-French (Paris)
    Last one, even if grammatically correct, is clumsy: your friend is right.
  13. genevois

    genevois Senior Member

    Genève, Suisse
    Many thanks for all your responses. That's very helpful. I thought "Ai-je des livres ?" must be wrong because I've never read or heard anybody saying it.

    I want to see an answer to HeartlessAngel's question too, but I guess it merits another thread?
  14. Paf le chien

    Paf le chien Senior Member

    France-French (Paris)

    No, it's perfect !
  15. Suehil

    Suehil Medemod

    Tillou, France
    British English
    Maybe you have never heard anyone ask 'Ai-je des livres' because most people already know whether or not they have any books.;)
  16. genevois

    genevois Senior Member

    Genève, Suisse
    Vous avez raison. Mais, ai-je raison aussi ? There you go.
  17. Suehil

    Suehil Medemod

    Tillou, France
    British English
    Oui, tu as raison. And that is a question you might hear quite often!
  18. avok

    avok Banned

    It may be grammatically right, but i dont think any one says "ai-je..." It sounds weird. (Ej)

    And I think, writing ""Est-ce que j'ai des livres ?" is better than "j'ai des livres?" which sounds informal and than "ai-je.." which sounds artificial
    Last edited by a moderator: May 9, 2013
  19. Paf le chien

    Paf le chien Senior Member

    France-French (Paris)
    Sorry to desagree :):

    - "ai-je.." is very natural (interrogative form of "j'ai").
    - "Est-ce que j'ai des livres ?" is clumsy and colloquial.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 9, 2013
  20. Canard

    Canard Senior Member

    Portland, OR
    English, USA
    I was always taught (even by native French teachers) what avok is saying... that inversion with "je" sounds at best odd and at worst unnatural. But now I'm being told the opposite? :/
  21. avok

    avok Banned

    yes, Canard,

    when I talk, I'd say : "j'ai des livres?"

    when I write an e-mail to a friend, I'd write: "j'ai des livres?"

    when I write to some one I do not know, I'd write: "Est-ce que j'ai..."

    If I were a "writer", I'd write: "Ai-je" and I am not a writer, so I never use or write "ai-je", "as-tu" etc...

    But the native french speakers must be right, they never ever say or write something like " je fus" but all french novels are full of wih "je fus" etc...( passé simple) so we'd better use "ai-je".

    but there is just one thing that I dont understand, why "Est-ce que j'ai des livres ?" is clumsy and colloquial" ? I've always though that beginning with "Est-ce que" is more polite than, for instance, "j'ai des livres?" (l'intonation)
  22. genevois

    genevois Senior Member

    Genève, Suisse
    I personally don't see the point of arguing with native speakers based on what we were taught or even what we thought. I live in a French-speaking area and I learn French for practical reasons. If they say "est-ce que" is more colloquial, that's it.

    I've copied the following comments from this thread:
    Another native speaker noted an exception (which however doesn't mean "est-ce que" is more formal):
    Last edited by a moderator: May 9, 2013
  23. Paf le chien

    Paf le chien Senior Member

    France-French (Paris)
    Ok. Let me reformulate :

    "Ai-je" is two (short) syllabs. "Est-ce que j'ai" is four (full) syllabs, so it's more clumsy to me.

    I prefer the former one because it's shorter. I'd say too "J'ai des livres ?" (with interrogative intonation). But I avoid to say "Est-ce que j'ai" because it is clumsy to my mouth and I find it ugly too to my ears. If someone use it, I won't care (although I don't find it "elegant") and understand it.

    If I write (mail or books), I always use "ai-je" ("Est-ce que" is 10 characters to enter for nothing !)

    Does it answer your questions ?
  24. mym Member

    France / French
    I would say the example is not too well chosen. For the rest, I agree with Paf le Chien.

    Let's take another one, not in the first person, because you just don't ask too many questions in the first person.
    - As-tu assez de livres pour le voyage ? = formal, but I would even use orally
    - Est-ce que tu as assez de livres pour le voyage ? = a bit clumsy yes, but grammatically correct definitely, and probably frequently used, orally at least. Would not look too good in written, unless you mean to use it for a certain effect
    - T'as assez de livres pour le voyage ? = definitely spoken and colloquial

    Therefore, the same applies for "ai-je des livres", though here, it does sound weird simply because the question is weird, not the grammar!
  25. Argyll Senior Member

    Let's be practical, and consider the statement 'vous viendrez mardi' (You'll be coming on Tuesday').

    I think a non-native speaker of French who has grasped that 'viendrez' is a form of 'venir' has grasped the main point.

    Now to turn that into a question, there are 3 choices:
    1 - viendrez-vous ... ?
    2 - vous viendrez ... ?
    3 - est-ce que vous viendrez ... ?

    N° 1 means learning a new structure, remembering about a hyphen...
    N° 2 is understandable is the foreign speaker's intonation in French is perfect.
    N° 3 can be understood in written French and in spoken French, and just consists in adding 'est-ce que', as if it was an adverb, in front of any statement.

    Honestly, if I were teaching French abroad, I would say that all questions use pattern N° 3, unless I had students specialising in literary translation.
  26. Paf le chien

    Paf le chien Senior Member

    France-French (Paris)
    But students must have learn that the the interrogative form is made by inverting subject and verb of the affirmative form and use a special intonation.

    1 - viendrez-vous ... ?
    2 - vous viendrez ... ?

    (1) is interrogative and (2) affirmative (with an interrogative intonation (the same as in (1)) because of the question mark).

    And the hyphen is a false problem : it is only used with personnal pronouns (6 basic ones).

    All of this is basic grammar that student must know, IMHO !

    Honestly ?
  27. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I was taught 1 and 3, which is why the statement that 3 was clumsy and incorrect caught my attention.

    I know that 2 exists from hearing and reading native speakers, but it was always clear to me that it's colloquial (a bit like je sais pas instead of je ne sais pas, which nevertheless seems to be widespread among native speakers).
  28. Paf le chien

    Paf le chien Senior Member

    France-French (Paris)
    Again, no.

    3 is correct but a little bit clumsy.
  29. Argyll Senior Member

    Honestly, Paf, no. Only students of French preparing to become French teachers need to know that. Other students may be preparing for jobs such as nuclear physicists or exporters of Scottish salmon, and they will always be right if they use 'est-ce que'.
  30. shoenning Senior Member

    French, France
    "Est-ce que" is neither clumsy, nor gramatically incorrect, it is called a gallicism and is perfectly correct in spoken language. In formal written language though, one will prefer another construction, such as "ai-je" instead of "est-ce que j'ai"
  31. Bléros Senior Member

    USA, English
    Je ne suis pas sûr si l'on peut inverser les noms ordinaires. J'ai appris que les prénoms peuvent suellement être inversés. Mais j'ai également trouvé des noms inversés.
  32. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    Est-ce que tu veux parler de l'inversion sujet-verbe dans une question ?

    Si c'est bien ta question, c'est vrai.
    On peut formuler une question en inversant le sujet et le verbe, si le sujet est un pronom (non un prénom) :

    Il vient ce soir ---> Vient-il, ce soir ?:tick:
    ils travaillent ce soir ---> Travaillent-ils, ce soir ?:tick:

    Cela n'est pas possible avec un sujet autre qu'un pronom :
    Pierre vient ce soir ---> Vient Pierre, ce soir ?:cross:
    Pierre et Marie travaillent ce soir ---> Travaillent Pierre et Marie, ce soir ?:cross:

    Dans ce dernier cas, on doit obligatoirement employer la forme avec "est-ce que"
    Est-ce que Pierre vient, ce soir ?:tick:
    Est-ce que Pierre et Marie travaillent, ce soir ?:tick:
  33. s3ct0r3 Member

    Bruxelles, Belgique
    American English
    From what I've learned:

    Marie vient des États-Unis.

    Vient-Marie des États-Unis? :cross:
    Marie vient-elle des États-Unis? :tick:
    Est-ce que Marie vient des États-Unis? :tick:

    There's my 2 cents.
  34. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    Mais oui, tu as raison ! J'ai oublié la forme interrogative avec rappel du pronom !

    Elle est parfaitement correcte... mais tellement peu utilisée qu'on l'oublie !
    Elle est très formelle, appartient à un langage soutenu et beaucoup de gens (moi, par exemple, :p ) ne l'emploient jamais.

    Dans mes exemples, on aurait :
    Pierre vient-il ce soir ?
    Pierre et Marie travaillent-ils ce soir ?
  35. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Euh… Moi je l'emploie assez fréquemment. Elle est certes un peu plus formelle que la construction avec est-ce que mais ce n'est tout de même pas du français particulièrement littéraire…
  36. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    J'étais à peu près sûre, en écrivant cela, qu'il se trouverait sur le forum des personnes qui l'emploient ! :D Je ne me suis pas trompée !

    Plus sérieusement, est-ce seulement une question de niveau de langue ? C'est peut-être un choix régional aussi. Je vis dans le sud et vraiment je n'entends jamais cela autour de moi...
  37. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    J'opterais pour la première solution… encore que la seconde joue aussi un certain rôle, mais secondaire selon moi.
  38. Bléros Senior Member

    USA, English
    Merci à tous.

    On doit jamais employer l'inversion avec les noms ordinaires et suellement les pronoms sauf que l'un procède le « que » dans une proposition subordonnée comme « Nous cherchons ce qu'aime le professeur. »
  39. omahieu Senior Member

    Belgium and French
    Moi aussi. D'ailleurs, je trouve ça plus élégant que d'employer "est-ce que" à tout va.
  40. Montaigne Senior Member

    French, France
    Un nom commun peut évidemment faire l'objet d'une inversion :
    La neige tombe-t-elle?
    Le vent souffle-t-il fort?
    Mes exemples sont-ils éclairants?
  41. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    N'oublions pas la simple phrase écrite comme à l'affirmative mais dite sur un ton interrogatif aussi très employée à l'oral et au moins autant que « est-ce que... », je suis d'accord avec Itka.
    « Il vient, ce soir ? »
    « Ils travaillent, ce soir ? »
    « Pierre vient, ce soir ? »
    « Pierre et Marie travaillent, ce soir ? »
  42. Montaigne Senior Member

    French, France
    J'ai toujours pensé que les francophones non français étaient les meilleurs gardiens du temple, celui de notre langue.
    Mon ami Barry, ivoirien, dirait toujours "vient-il ce soir?" même s'il sait que "il vient ce soir?" est d'usage courant.
    Il n'éprouve pas le besoin de parler un français populaire car ce qu'il admire dans cette langue, c'est sa rigueur.
  43. omahieu Senior Member

    Belgium and French
    En même temps, si quelqu'un qui ne parle pas très bien le français, s'essaie à des expressions non courantes, on lui fera remarquer, tandis qu'on ne corrigera pas celui dont c'est la langue maternelle.
  44. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    Là, un étranger n'aura aucun mal à se faire comprendre, qu'il dise :
    « Est-ce qu'il vient ce soir ? »
    « Vient-il ce soir ? »
    ou encore
    « Il vient ce soir ? »

    Par contre, s'il se mettait à parler comme du temps de Montaigne (le vrai, je veux dire), je crains fort qu'il ait plus de difficultés... ;)
  45. Jacques818 Member

    United States English
    Bonsoir tout le monde! J'ai une petite question pour vous dont j'ai du mal à trouver la réponse. Je vois souvent sur des sites, dans des forums etc. des personnes laisser des messages où elles disent des choses comme "Comment ça se fait?" ou "Comment ça se dit" etc. Maintenant, si je me souviens correctement, je pense qu'il faut mettre "est-ce que" entre les mots comme "comment, quand, pourquoi, etc." et un sujet quand on forme une question alors pourquoi n'y-en-a-t-il pas un dans les phrases ci-dessus? Ça se fait juste pour rendre les phrases moins encombrantes ou quoi? J'apprécierais n'importe quelle réponse que vous avez tout le monde! Merci beaucoup et Bonne Nouvelle Année! :)
  46. Kyroso Fetola Member

    When asking a question in french one may say for example:

    as-tu besoin d'argent or est-ce que tu as besoin d'argent?

    Which is more formal of the two, versus the most common?

    and could you even say "tu as besoin d'argent?"

    Without changing it at all grammatically, but pronounce it as an inquiry like we often do in english?
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 10, 2010
  47. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    In primary school, we are taught that there are three ways to ask questions.
    From the most formal to the least formal:
    "As-tu besoin d'argent ?" (subject-verb inversion. (very) formal. Not much used when speaking to friends for instance)
    "Est-ce que tu as besoin d'argent ?"
    (deemed as less elegant but still used quite a lot in spoken language)
    "Tu as besoin d'argent ?"
    (same as an affirmative sentence but with a question mark at the end and different intonation)

    Hope it helps :)
  48. connor_ New Member

    1. Pourquoi est-ce que tu est triste?
    2. Pourquoi est-tu triste?

    Où est la differance entre les deux questions?
    Est-ce que la première phrase plus polie que l'autre?...
    Quand j'utilise quelle?
    Merci beaucoup.
  49. RuK Senior Member

    Outside Paris
    English/lives France
    Note it should be es-tu triste and tu es triste.

    There's no real difference. The second is a more elegant formulation.
  50. itka Senior Member

    Nice, France
    I'd say the second is more formal. The first is more used.

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