How to ask questions in French: A top guide to 7 question words

According to a French saying, “La curiosité est un vilain défaut” (Curiosity is an ugly flaw). I beg to defer as long as it’s not intrusive! 

Asking questions, especially when traveling, will help you understand the culture and maybe discover some hidden gems! This article on French questions wordswill help you in the following situations:

So if this topic piqued your curiosity, get ready to learn French interrogative words, and don’t worry: grammar doesn’t have to be boring!

What are interrogative pronouns/words?

Simply put, interrogative words and pronouns allow you to ask questions. There’s no more to it! Well, there are some grammar rules involved, — what did you expect, it’s French! — but we’ll come back to it later.

One easy way to ask a question in French is to raise your tone of voice at the end of the sentence. You can also invert the verb and pronoun — check this video for a couple of examples. And you don’t always need an interrogative word for this!

These two smiling class friends are learning how to ask questions in French.

Notable differences between English and French interrogative words

The preposition placement

In spoken English, sentences often end with a preposition, for example: “Who did he come with?”.

In French however, the preposition goes with the interrogative word, for example: Avec qui est-il venu ?”

The gender

Grammatically speaking, the main difference between French and English is usually… the infamous gender! Just like for French adjectives, for example.

First, the good news: Some French interrogatives such as “Qui,” “Que,” and “Quoi” are invariables.” Quoi ? This weird word means they stay exactly the same regardless of the number or gender of the noun they refer to.

Now, of course, some French questions words must agree with the number and gender of the noun they replace or refer to. These include “Lequel” and “Quel.” Don’t worry, we’ll give you some concrete examples below.

French question words

Without further ado, let’s dive into our French interrogative pronouns and words!

We’ve included a detailed section with examples for each main question word.

English French IPA
Who Qui ki
What Quoi/Qu’est-ce que/Que kwa/kɛ-sə kɛ/kə
When Quand kɑ̃
Where u
Why Pourquoi puɾkwa
Which Quel/Quelle/Quels/QuellesLequel/Laquelle/Lesquels kɛl/kɛlɛ/kɛls/kɛlələkɛl/lakɛlɛ/lɛskɛl
How Comment kɔmə

Qui ?

Meaning: Who

As mentioned, “Qui” is invariable. Hooray! Here are a few examples to use it properly.

English French IPA Note
Who is your sister? Qui est votre/ta sœur ? kiɛ vɔtɾɛ/ta sœɾ ? More possessive adjectives in French.
Who are you meeting? Avec qui avez-vous/as-tu rendez-vous ? avɛk ki ave-vus/a-ty ɾɑ̃de-vu ?  
Who is this handsome guy? Qui est ce beau mec ? kiɛ sə bo mɛk ? More adjectives and compliments in French.
For whom is this flower bouquet? Pour qui est ce bouquet de fleurs ? puɾ kiɛ sə buke də flœɾ ?  
Who are you talking about? De qui parlez-vous/parles-tu ? də ki paɾle-vus/paɾlə-ty ?  

Quoi ?/Qu’est-ce que ?/Que

Meaning: What

There are different ways to say “What” in French depending on the context and level of formality.

While the best way to learn is to practice, there are a couple of rules to help you.

  • You cannot use “Que” after a preposition. It has to be “Quoi”.
  • If you want to speak informal/street French, do not invert the verb and pronoun.
  • “Qu’est-ce que” is widely used in French to start a question with a direct object.

The following examples are always in this order: From the most formal to the least formal.

English French IPA Note
What would you like for dinner?
  • Que voulez-vous pour le dîner ?
  • Qu’est-ce que tu veux pour le dîner ?
  • Tu veux quoi pour le dîner ?
kə vule-vu puɾ lə dine ?kɛ-sə kə ty vø puɾ lə dine ?ty vø kwa puɾ lə dine ?  
What are you thinking about?
  • À quoi pensez-vous ?
  • À quoi penses-tu ?
  • Tu penses à quoi ?
a kwa pɑ̃se-vu ?a kwa pɑ̃sə-ty ?ty pɑ̃səz‿ a kwa ?  
What are you doing?
  • Que faites-vous ?
  • Que fais-tu ?
  • Qu’est-ceque tu fais ?
  • Tu fais quoi ?
kə fɛtə-vu ?kə fe-ty ?kɛ-sə kə ty fe ?ty fe kwa ?  
What can you recommend?
  • Que me recommandez-vous ?
  • Que recommendes-tu ?
  • Qu’est-ce que tu me conseilles ?
  • Tu me conseilles quoi ?
kə mə ɾəkɔmɑ̃de-vu ?kə ɾəkɔmɑ̃də-ty ?kɛ-sə kə ty mə kõsɛjə ?ty mə kõsɛjə kwa ? More restaurant vocab in French.
What do you like?
  • Qu’aimez-vous ?
  • Qu’aimes-tu ?
  • Qu’est-ce que tu aimes ?
  • Tu aimes quoi ?
k(e)me-vu ?k(e)mə-ty ?kɛ-sə kə ty ɛmə ?ty ɛmə kwa ?  

Quand ?

Meaning: When

We live in a society that constantly looks ahead. While it’s important to live in the moment, a little planning doesn’t hurt, right?

Learn how to ask “when” in the table below!

The following examples are always in this order: From the most formal to the least formal.

English French IPA Note
When are you coming to visit me?
  • Quand viendrez-vous me voir ?
  • Quand est-ce que vous viendrez me voir ?
  • Quand viendras-tu me voir ?
  • Quand est-ce que tu viendras me voir ?
  • Tu viens quand ?
kɑ̃ vjɑ̃dɾe-vu mə vwaɾ ?kɑ̃d‿ɛ-sə kə vu vjɑ̃dɾe mə vwaɾ ?kɑ̃ vjɑ̃dɾa-ty mə vwaɾ ?kɑ̃d‿ɛ-sə kə ty vjɑ̃dɾa mə vwaɾ ?ty vjɛ̃ kɑ̃ ?  
When is your birthday?
  • Quand est votre anniversaire ?
  • Quand est ton anniversaire ?
  • C’est quand, ton anniversaire ?
kɑ̃d‿ɛ vɔtɾ anivɛɾsɛɾə ?kɑ̃d‿ɛ tõn‿ anivɛɾsɛɾə ?kɛ kɑ̃, tõn‿ anivɛɾsɛɾə ?  
When is the last time you had a vacation?
  • À quand remontent vos dernières vacances ?
  • À quand remontent tes dernières vacances ?
  • C’était quand tes dernières vacances ?
a kɑ̃ ɾəmõtə vo dɛɾnjɛɾə vakɑ̃sə ?a kɑ̃ ɾəmõtəte dɛɾnjɛɾə vakɑ̃sə ?kete kɑ̃te dɛɾnjɛɾə vakɑ̃sə ?  
When is it going to rain?
  • Quand va-t-il pleuvoir ?
  • Quand est-ce qu’il va pleuvoir ?
  • Il va pleuvoir quand ?
kɑ̃ va-t‿-il plœvwaɾ ?kɑ̃d‿ɛ-sə kil va plœvwaɾ ?il va plœvwaɾ kɑ̃ ? More weather words and expressions in French here.
When is the concert?
  • Quand est le concert ?
  • C’est quand le concert ?
kɑ̃d‿ɛ lə kõsɛɾ ?kɛ kɑ̃ lə kõsɛɾ ?  

Où ?

Meaning: Where

I still remember one of the first songs I learned in English: “Where is the cat, where is the cat, where where where, where is the cat”.

“Where” is certainly one of the first words you’ll need to learn in any language, and French is no exception.

English French IPA Note
Where are you going for your vacation? allez-vous/vas-tu en vacances ? u ale-vus/va-tyɑ̃ vakɑ̃sə ?  
Where do you live? habitez-vous/habites-tu ? u abite-vus/abitə-ty ? More ways to ask “Where are you from” in French here.
Where do you want to eat? voulez-vous/veux-tu manger ? u vule-vus/vø-ty mɑ̃ʒe ?  
Where is this train going? va ce train ? u va sə tɾɛ̃ ?  
Where is the gate for the flight to Lyon? est la porte d’embarquement du vol à destination de Lyon ? uɛ la pɔɾtə dɑ̃baɾkəmə dy vɔl a dɛstinasjõ də ljõ ?  

Pourquoi ?

Meaning: Why

If you’ve ever met a three-years-old toddler, you know that “Why” is their favorite question. Keep your inner child alive and learn how to use “Pourquoi”!

English French IPA Note
Why did you decide to come to Montréal? Pourquoi avez-vous/as-tu décidé de venir à Montréal ? puɾkwa ave-vus/a-ty deside də vəniɾ a mõtɾeal ?  
Why is he so stressed today? Pourquoi est-il si stresé aujourd’hui ? puɾkwaɛt‿-il si stɾəse oʒuɾdɥi ?  
Why is she in a hurry? Pourquoi est-elle pressée ? puɾkwaɛt‿-ɛlə pɾɛseə ?  
Why do you prefer dogs over cats? Pourquoi préférez-vous/préfères-tu les chiens aux chats ? puɾkwa pɾefeɾe-vus/pɾefɛɾə-tyle ʃjɛ̃z‿ o ʃa ?  
Why are you learning French? Pourquoi apprenez-vous/appreds-tu le français ? puɾkwa apɾəne-vus/apɾe-ty lə fɾanse ? More French vocab here.

Quel/Quelle/Quels/Quelles - Lequel/Laquelle/Lesquels/Lesquelles ?

Meaning: Which

“Which” is perhaps the most complicated of the French interrogative words, as the “accord” in gender and number must be respected. Below are a few examples to help you understand.

English French IPA Note
Which of these designs do you prefer? Lesquels de ces designs préférez-vous/préfères-tu ? lɛskɛl dəse dəsiɲ pɾefeɾe-vus/pɾefɛɾə-ty ?  
Which dress is the nicest? Quelle robe est la plus belle ? kɛlə ɾɔbɛ la ply bɛlə ? More clothes in French here.
Which of these flowers are the most fragrant? Laquelle de ces fleurs est la plus parfumée ? lakɛlə dəse flœɾz‿ɛ la ply paɾfymeə ? More flowers in French here.
Which animal is your favorite? Quel est votre/ton animal préféré ? kɛlɛ vɔtɾɛ/tõn‿ animal pɾefeɾe ? More animals in French here.
Which of these destinations are the most appealing to you? Lesquelles de ces destinations sont les plus attrayantes pour toi/vous ? lɛskɛlə dəse dɛstinatjõ sõle plyz‿ atɾɛjɑ̃tə puɾ twa/vu ?  

Comment ?

Meaning: How

“How” is a favorite for curious people, myself included. I always like to know how things work, don’t you?

English French IPA Note
How does he make this cake? Comment fait-il ce gâteau ? kɔmə f(e)t‿-il sə gɑto ?  
How are you? Comment allez-vous/vas-tu ? kɔmət‿ ale-vus/va-ty ? More ways to say “How are you” in French here.
How did your job interview go? Comment s’est passé votre/ton entretien d’embauche ? kɔmə sɛ pase vɔtɾɛ/tõn‿ ɑ̃tɾətjɛ̃ dɑ̃boʃə ?  
How did you find out? Comment l’avez-vous/as-tu découvert ? kɔmə lave-vus/a-ty dekuvɛɾ ?  
How did you get here? Comment êtes-vous/es-tu venu(e) ? kɔmət‿ (e)tə-vus/ə-ty vəny(ɛ) ?  
What did you think of the movie? Comment avez-vous/as-tu trouvé le film ? kɔmət‿ ave-vus/a-ty tɾuve lə fil ?  
What’s your name? Comment vous appelez-vous/tu t’appelles ? kɔmə vuz‿ apəle-vus/ty tapɛlə ? Other ways to ask “What’s your name” in French here.

By now, you should have everything you need to satiate your curiosity in French and understand any question asked by a francophone person.

With the right French interrogatives, you’ll be able to ask questions in a polite way.

And if you still need good reasons to be curious, check out this video. La curiosité n’est pas seulement un beau défaut, c’est aussi bon pour la santé !

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