French Lesson 18

In previous lessons we seen that, yes or no questions can be asked using a basic question pattern which enable you to make a declarative sentence interrogative.

We also seen, that in order to retrieve specific information, an interrogative expression is used such as an adverb, pronoun, or adjective. The interrogative functions as a way to retrieve the why, who, which, etc.

In order to master this, be aware that the interrogative expression is not what forms the question, but gives the information. It is necessary to use the basic sentence forming patterns. <<est-ce que>> and inversion are only two basic question patterns.

Rising Intonation is also another way to ask a question, this is done by shifting the tone of voice to sound like a conversation. This is mainly used in informal speech.

Another way to ask a yes and no question is by adding Non? N’est pas? at the end of a sentence. This is similar to asking, isn’t it? in english.

Interrogative Adverbs

Interrogative Adverbs, they retrieve information related to time, location, manner, number, or cause.

Time can be determined by using quand or à quelle heure.

  • quand (when) est-ce que ce concert passe? [est-ce que]
    • When is this concert starting?
  • à quelle heure (when, at what time) finit ton cours? [inversion]
    • At what time does your course finish?

Location can be determined by using

  • (where) est un restaurant à un bon hamburger?
    • Where is a restaurant with a good burger?

Manner can be determined using comment.

  • comment (how) s’appelle ton ami?
    • What is you friends name?

Number can be determined using combien (how much) or combien de + noun (how many, how much).

  • Combien coûte le loyer?
    • How much is the rent?
  • Combien de sucre est dans crème de glace par un gallon?
    • How much sugar is in ice cream per gallon?

Cause can be determined by using pourquoi (why).

  • Pourquoi je ne finis jamais mon devoirs sur temps?
    • Why do I never finish my homework on time?

Usage of the interrogatives quand, à quelle heure, où, comment, et combien the noun subject is able to invert alongside its verb to form a question. This is only applicable with verbs that are in a simple tense form and has no object. The noun subject along with its modifiers (adjectives, etc.) will be the last portion of the sentencte.

  • Où passe ce nouveau film
    • Where are this new film playing?

Although combien is able to invert, combien de nor pourquoi is able to because of the way the sentence is normally formed, therefore preventing it from being the last piece of the question which is formed.

Counting the Clock

In French, reading the time is done using cardinal numbers. The number is followed by (heure(s)) and the number of minutes.

  • 02:33: deux heures et trente trois
  • 04:25: seize heures et vignt-cinq

You then minus the minutes from the next hour when the time is past half an hour.

  • 05:43: six heures moins dix-sept
  • 07:31: dix-neuf heures moins vingt-neuf

To express these in terms of A.M. and P.M. use du matin, de après-midi, du soir. However you don’t use a 24-hour clock, just like in English, under these circumstances.

  • 02:33: deux heures et trente trois du matin
  • 04:25: quatre heures et vignt-cinq de l’après midi
  • 05:43: six heures moins dix-sept du matin
  • 07:31: huit heures moins vingt-neuf ce soir

For quarter hours, half hours, midnight and midday the following forms are special forms respectively:

  • 02:15: deux heures et quart de l’après-midi
  • 04:45: cinq heures moins le quart du matin
  • 10:30: dix heures et demi
  • 12:15: midi et quart
  • 00:30 minuit et demi

To express the in the or at expression of peroids throughout the day, you use the indefinite pronouns le, la, les, l’

  • Le soir, je vais visiter ma copine à sa travaille!

Time as a term can be said using fois, temps, et heure. They all mean times, however, in different context.

  • Temps: time is a general or abstract concept.
    • Je n’ai pas le temps de étudie ce weekend.
      • I don’t have time to study this weekend.
    • Le temps passe vite
      • Time flies
  • Fois: when time is reffered to as an occasion or a time in succession
    • Je suis ici pour la première fois.
      • I’m here for the first time.
  • Heure: Implies a specific time of day
    • C’est l’heure du petit dejeuner.
      • It’s breakfast time.

Specific senses time end in -ée, these jour, an, soir, and matin. To do this, it is so simple all you have to do is add -ée to the end.

  • le jour la jourée
  • l’an l’anée
  • le soir → la soirée
  • le matin → la matinée

It is useful to do this to the sentence when there is some references to activities occurring during a certain time span. To identify when to use the feminine form rather than the masculine, be on the lookout for concepts including all the, the whole, a part of, or most of.

Interrogative Pronouns

Using the pronoun qui allows for asking questions of people, in the context who and whom. When qui is used for the subject, it represents who. When qui is used for the object, it represents whom.

When Qui is the subject, qui shows both the information while also forming the question. In this case qui is the first word in the question, and is followed by the verb in its il/elle/on (third person singular) form. The order of the words do not change.

  • Qui vient avec toi?
    • Who is coming with you?

When qui is the direct object of that sentence, qui is the first sentence in the word, however, est-ce que or inversion of the subject and verb forms asking the question must be used in these circumstances.

  • Qui est-ce que nous amènons au restaurant?
    • Who are we bringing to the restaurant?

Qui can also be the object of a preposition. When this occurs, the preposition in most cases, will be the first word of the question. The preposition is then followed directly by qui after that. Est-ce que or inversion must be used to form the question. As usual the subject and the verb are inverted with inversion.

  • Avec qui est-ce que vos parents sont venus?
    • Who did your parents come with?

Here are a list of verbs which take a preposition before the noun object.

s’abonner à (to subscribe to)s’agir de (to be)
jouer à (to play a sport or game)avoir besoin de (to need)
parler à (to talk to)avoir peur de (to be afraid/ scared of)
passer à (move to/switching to)jouer de (to play an instrument)
penser à (to think about/over, to consider)parler de (to discuss)
réfléchir à (to think about)se rendre compte de (to realize)
téléphoner à (to call to)se souvenir de (to remember)

Here is a list of verbs that do not require a preposition before the verb.

attendre (to wait for)écouter (to listen to)
chercher (to look for)payer (to pay for)
demander (to ask for)regarder (to look at)

When you would like to ask questions about things, actions, or situations. There are a few ways to do this.

You can use Qu’est-ce qui as the subject. This is done when the what is the subject of the question. In this case, qu’est-ce qui is the interrogative pronoun, and does not require any other basic question formation such as est-ce que nor inversion.

  • Qu’est ce qui arrive à la fin du film?
    • What happens at the end of the film?

Que can also form the question, and this is done when the what of the question is the direct object. In this case est-ce que or inversion is required to form the question with que placed afterwards.

Que + Est-ce que = Qu’est-ce que

  • Qu’est-ce que nous faisons ce soir? or Que faisons-nous ce soir?
    • What are we doing tonight?

Qu’est-ce qui vs Qu’est-ce que

Qu’est-ce qui is used to ask what the subject is (the object of the verb) , and it’s form is as follows: Qu’est-ce qui + verb
Qu’est-ce que on the contrary asks what the object is (questions about people), and its form is: Qu’est-ce que + noun/ pronoun

Quoi is used to when the what of the sentence is the object of the preposition. In its form the preposition is first word in the question, and is immediately followed by quoi, then est-ce que or inversion is placed afterwards.

In order to ask what a definition is or what something is the following are great ways to ask!

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est?
    • What is it?
  • Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça (cela)?
    • What is that?
  • Qu’est-ce que c’est que <<le brin modèle de l’acide désoxyribonucléique>>?
    • What is the template strand of deoxyribonucleic acid?

Quel v.s. Lequel

Quel: What/ Which

Quel is an adjective, and changes with the number and gender of the noun it modifies.


Knowing the difference when to use an interrogative pronoun versus when to use quel is tough, and one way to figure that out is to determine if you are trying to single one or more things from a larger group. In that circumstances it is appropriate to use quel.

When être is placed after quel the form of the question turns into Quel + être + Noun.

  • Quelle est l’année ils commence production de la filme nouvelle Spider-Man?
    • What is the year the began production of the new Spider-Man film?

In order to know when to tell the difference between choosing between qu’est-ce qui and quel, rappel (remember), when the verb être is placed in front of a noun, then you should use quel. If être is not placed in front of a noun or être is not used, then qu’est-ce qui is your best bet!

When Quel is modifying a noun subject, the form become quel+ no0un subject. Quel, in this form inherently, gives both the information and forms the question.

  • Quel acteur a joué le rôle principal dans Frozen?
    • Which actor played the main part in Frozen?

When quel modifies a noun which is a direct object, and not a subject, quel still gives the information, but not the question. Est-ce que or inversion is required under these circumstances (both these forms follow the noun).

  • Quelle interprétation a-t-il donnée de ce rôle?
    • What interpretation did he give to this role?

When quel modifies the noun object of a preposition, the form is as follows: preposition + quel + noun object. Again, quel gives the information, but est-ce que or inversion is needed.

  • De quel film parliez vous?
    • What film are you talking about
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Lequel is a pronoun which replaces quel and the noun being modifies, therefore, it must agree with the gender and number of the noun.


When Lequel is the subject of the sentence, it gives the information and forms the question.

  • Je voudrais boire un bière craft avec toi ce soir. Lequel est bar locale avec le mieux bière craft dans ce ville?
    • I would like to drink a craft beer with you tonight. Which local bar has the best craft beer in this city?

When Lequel is the direct object, it gives the information, but does not form the question. You need to use est-ce que or inversion to form the question.

  • J’aime beaucoup les films avec Robert Downey Junior. Vraiment , lequel est-ce que vous avez vu récemment?
    • I really like movies with Robert Downey Junior. Really, which ones have you seen recently?

When Lequel is the object of the preposition, it gives the information, but does not form the question. You need to use est-ce queor inversion to form the question. When it is preceded by an à or de the following contracted forms are used (same as definite article contraction)

feminiuneà laquellede laquelle
m. pluralauxquelsdesquels
f. pluralauxquellesdesquelles
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