19 Common French Questions You’ll Need to Ask and Answer
Asking questions is an important part of communication in French.
We’ll help you construct a “yes” or “no” question, and questions that begin with the “where,” “what,” “who,” “when” and more.
After that you’ll find a list of the 19 most common French questions (and a few tips on how to answer them, too).
With this starter guide and a little initiative on your end, you’ll be on your way to asking questions in French with ease!
- How to Ask French Questions
- 19 French Questions for Everyday Use
- How to Practice Asking and Answering French Questions
- And one more thing...
How to Ask French Questions
Asking Yes-or-no Questions
The simplest questions are those that need a “yes” or “no” answer. To ask questions like these, we can choose from a few alternatives.
Using est-ce que
The most formal way to ask a question is to take a declaratory sentence and add est-ce que which in English would be something like “is it that.” Let’s take a look at the sentence:
Vous êtes australien. — You are Australian.
This is a statement that we can turn into a question as follows:
Est-ce que vous êtes australien ? — Are you Australian?
Here is a helpful YouTube video to help you get the hang of asking these kinds of questions.
Changing your tone
Especially in informal situations, with “yes” and “no” questions you can just keep the same word order of the statement and raise the tone on the last word of the question. In this case we have:
Vous êtes australien. — You are Australian.
Vous êtes australien ? — Are you Australian?
Changing word order
I find est-ce que incredibly simple to use, but you can also just invert the subject and verb of your sentence. Check out the following statement:
Vous allez au parc. — You go to the park.
If we wanted to make this a question we could just say:
Allez-vous au parc ? — Do you go to the park?
This is an equally valid way to ask questions, and you might find it easier than using est-ce que. Note the hyphen between the verb and subject.
To get a hang of inversion questions—especially those pesky hyphens—the best method is lots of practice. Luckily there are lots of great resources for this online, such as this quiz.
French Question Words
For slightly more complex questions, let’s have a look at how to ask questions using question words in French.
The French word for “who” is qui. Let’s start with a simple question:
Qui est-il ? — Who is he?
The simplest way to ask this question is to put qui at the beginning of the sentence and then invert the subject and verb with a hyphen as we did above.
Inverting the subject and verb is the most common way to ask questions involving qui, but let’s look at a more complicated example.
We could also use qui to form a question using your old friend, est-ce que:
Qui est-ce qui lit ? — Who is reading?
This is a great moment to explain that est-ce que is only used when what follows it could be a complete sentence (subject + verb + object). That’s why a question like qui est-il ? doesn’t include est-ce que.
But in the question qui est-ce qui lit ? we have a subject and verb that could be a complete sentence, so we add the est-ce que, but of course since the answer to this question is a person and the subject of the sentence, we say est-ce qui.
In the case where the answer to the question is both a person and direct object, we say qui est-ce que, for example:
Qui est-ce que tu connais ici ? — Who do you know here?
“What” and “which” questions
In French, “what” can be translated as que or quoi, and “which” can be translated in several ways depending on the number and gender of the subject it modifies: quel, quels, quelle, quelles.
Let’s look at an example involving que. Usually que uses est-ce que as follows:
Qu’est-ce que c’est ? — What is it/this?
This extremely common question breaks down as follows:
Que + est-ce que + subject + verb
We’ll put est-ce que right after the question word in the majority of questions in French.
In addition to que, we also have the option of using the less formal alternative quoi. For example:
C’est quoi ça ? — What is it/this?
The French word for “when” is quand, and as you can expect, we can make questions using our hack.
Quand est-ce que tu veux aller au cinéma ? — When do you want to go to the movies?
Note how we put est-ce que after the question word here, since what comes afterward could be a stand-alone sentence.
We could also just change the order of the words and use raised intonation:
Vous arrivez quand ? — When will you arrive?
“Where” is translated as où (note the accent). To ask where something is, you can formulate a question like:
Où est mon chat ? — Where is my cat?
Again, remember that we only use est-ce que when what follows could be a complete sentence (subject + verb + object). That’s why a sentence like Où est mon chat? doesn’t include est-ce que.
Note the difference between the last sentence and this one:
Où est-ce que tu veux aller ? — Where do you want to go?
Here we have a complete sentence, tu veux aller, following est-ce que, whereas in the first sentence, we only had a subject: mon chat.
Finally, we can simplify our question, eliminating the est-ce que and using the hyphen:
Où veux-tu aller ? — Where do you want to go?
Asking “why” is one of the most important things you can ask. The French translation is pourquoi. Let’s look at an example:
Pourquoi est-ce que vous mangez trop ? — Why do you eat too much?
Once again, the same formula used above applies to why questions: you can use inversion and drop the est-ce que to ask the question in a different way.
Pourquoi mangez-vous trop ? — Why do you eat too much?
We’ve covered the principal “who, what, when, where and why” questions, but there are other question words, such as “how,” or comment. Check this out:
Comment est-ce qu’on sort d’ici ? — How do we get out of here?
As always, we can also ask questions by reversing the subject and verb. For example:
Comment parle-t-on là-bas ? — How do people speak there?
Let’s stop for a quick teaching moment. You might be asking, “Why is there a t between parle and on?”
When we ask a question by inverting the verb and the subject, if the last letter of the conjugated verb is a vowel as well as the first letter of the subject, we have to add a t that acts as a sort of pronunciation break.
“How many” questions
In French, we have a word for “how many”: combien. Let’s check out a complete example:
Combien de chats est-ce qu’il y a dans la maison ? — How many cats are there in the house?
This sentence looks complicated, but it isn’t. Let’s break it into pieces:
Combien de + plural noun + est-ce que + il y a + dans la maison ?
The est-ce qu’il y a is like saying “are there”. Notice the de after combien. This is always used, whether the subject that follows is countable or uncountable.
We can also replace the est-ce qu’il y a with y a-t-il which also means “are there”:
Combien de chats y a-t-il dans la maison ?
Finally, we can start with il y a as follows:
Il y a combien de chats dans la maison ?
19 French Questions for Everyday Use
Okay, so now that we have the formulas down, let’s have a look at some more example phrases you can use.
Remember to use vous when the situation calls for more formality (or also when you’re asking a group of multiple people their names). Use tu when the situation is more casual/informal.
If there are variations for both formality levels, we share them below.
Introductions and Small Talk
1. Comment vous appelez-vous ? / Comment tu t’appelles ? — What’s your name?
If you’re the one being asked, you can respond by saying:
Je m’appelle — My name is…
It’s one of the easiest and fastest ways to start making new friends!
2. Comment allez-vous ? / Comment ça va ? / Ça va ? — How are you?
Comment allez-vous ? is the formal way of asking how someone is. Comment ça va ? is more informal, with Ça va ? being the most informal, but also very common.
To answer you you can say:
Je vais bien, et vous ? — I’m doing well, and you? (formal)
Bien, merci — Good, thank you.
Ça va (bien) — I’m doing well.
Pas trop mal — Not bad.
Go ahead and choose your formality level based on the situation.
3. Comment ça s’écrit ? — How do you spell that?
If you’re the one being asked how to spell something, it’s always helpful to know how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced in French.
4. D’où venez-vous ? / D’où viens-tu ? — Where do you come from?
There are two versions of based on whether you use the verb venir (to come) or être (to be).
So another variation of this question would be:
D’où êtes-vous ? — Where are you from? (formal)
Tu es d’où ? — Where are you from? (informal)
If someone asks you, all you have to do is say:
Je viens de… — I come from…
Je suis de… — I am from…
5. Quel âge avez-vous ? / Quel âge as-tu ? — How old are you?
In English, we say “How old are you?” But in French, the construction literally means “What age do you have?”
In French you have to answer by saying:
J’ai vingt ans. — I’m 20 years old.
Or, literally, “I have 20 years.”
6. Qu’est-ce que vous étudiez ? / Qu’est-ce que tu étudies ? — What do you study?
This one is commonly asked by university students around the world! If you’re asked this, don’t panic, just repeat after me:
J’étudie… — I study…
J’étudie le français. — I study French.
Socializing and Making Conversation
Now that you’ve successfully gone through the introductory phase, you might want to ask some more conversational questions. Here are some common starter questions to get you going.
7. Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire ce week-end ? — What are you going to do this weekend?
If you’re the one being asked, you can start off with Je vais… and carry on with whatever activity you’ll be doing this weekend, using the infinitive form of the verb. For example:
Je vais sortir avec des amis — I’m going to go out with some friends.
8. Tu veux sortir avec nous ce soir ? — Do you want to go out with us tonight?
When asking the question, replace nous (us) with moi (me) and you can ask someone out on a date, either romantic or platonic.
To respond to this question, you can say:
Pourquoi pas ! — Why not!
Je ne peux pas, désolé ! — I can’t, sorry!
9. À quelle heure commence le concert ? — When does the concert start? / À quelle heure se termine le concert ? — When does the concert end?
You can respond simply by saying something like:
Le concert commence à huit heures et se termine à dix heures et demie. — The concert starts at eight o’clock and ends at 10:30.
From asking what time a concert starts to what time a boring lecture ends, you’ll want this question in your toolbox.
10. Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé ? — What happened?
A sample response would be:
Je suis tombé malade — I got sick.
The answer is said in the past tense, just like the question.
11. Quel est votre passe-temps préféré ? / Quel est ton passe-temps préféré ? — What is your hobby?
There’s no better way to get to know someone than by finding out what their favorite hobby is. To respond, you can say:
Mon passe-temps préféré est… — My favorite hobby is…
J’aime jouer au football. — I love playing soccer.
Asking for Information
Asking for information is important. Here are some of the most common questions for doing so.
12. Parlez-vous anglais ? — Do you speak English?
Another variation of this question could be:
Est-ce qu’il y a quelqu’un qui parle anglais ? — Is there someone here who speaks English?
When you’re in a place where the native language is not the same as your native tongue, it’s always helpful to know how to ask this question.
13. Quelle heure est-il ? — What time is it?
To answer, you can say:
Il est onze heures du matin. — It’s 11 a.m.
Here’s more on how to tell time in French, just in case you need a little refresher!
14. À quelle heure part le train pour Marseille ? — What time does the train depart for Marseille?
To ask what time anything is happening, just start the question off with À quelle heure… (At what time…)
Responding to a question like this is as easy as saying:
Le train part à quinze heures. — The train departs at 3 p.m.
Remember, the 24-hour clock system is what is used in France, unlike in the U.S.!
15. Quel temps fait-il aujourd’hui ? — What’s the weather like today?
If you use your phone and ask Siri this question, she’ll likely respond with something like:
Il fait chaud. — It’s hot.
Il fait froid. — It’s cold.
Make sure you check more weather-related French words and phrases, too!
16. Quel jour sommes-nous ? — What day is it?
This literally means “What day are we at?” in French. If someone asks you this question, you can say, for example:
Nous sommes lundi. — It’s Monday.
C’est lundi. — It’s Monday.
Here are all the days of the week in French.
17. Où se trouve… ? / Où est… ? — Where is…?
The first one literally means “Where is (this specific thing) found/situated?”
Another variation of this question would be:
Est-ce que vous savez où je peux trouver… ? — Do you know where I can find… ?
A common response would be:
Ça se trouve au deuxième étage. — That’s on the second floor.
You can also use this when shopping or when you want to ask where you can find the restroom, a specific classroom, etc.
18. Comment va-t-on à… ? — How do I get to…?
To respond, you can say, for example:
Il faut aller tout droit. —You have to go straight.
Désolé, mais je ne sais pas. — I’m sorry, but I don’t know.
Here’s some more info about asking for and giving directions in French!
19. Combien ça coûte ? — How much does this cost?
The answer might be:
Ça coûte sept euros. — It costs seven euros.
How to Practice Asking and Answering French Questions
With a language exchange partner, of course. And finding one is now easier than ever. Don’t be afraid to go out there and ask! Most people are all too happy to help a learner.
If you aren’t interested in finding a language partner, you can practice French questions by using language-learning apps, programs and courses.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
And there you have it, folks! All the common French questions you could ever want to know. If you need them, you can find some more basic introductory French questions and sentences here.
Now go forth and use ’em to your heart’s content!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.