Grammar 101: How to Ask a Yes / No Question

Bonjour !

Ça va ?

If you’ve been following Comme une Française for a while, you know I always say « I don’t do grammar ».

OK… Well… After reading (and hearing) so many « bancales » (=wobbly) questions in French, I thought you’d like some help. ????

How to ask a yes/no question properly, this is what we’ll see today on Comme une Française TV.

Et toi?
Did you know all these options for building a question?
Do you have a favorite?
Which mistake do you make the most?

Share your story (in French if you can!) in the comments below so we can all learn from your experience and laugh at your anecdotes.

Bonne semaine,


PS: In French we say « Il n’y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d’avis » (Only fools never change their minds). ????

Join the conversation!

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  • Hi Geraldine –

    Oops – I didn’t understand your reply. Which one is too elegant for everyday life – the inverted version or the non-inverted? Which should I teach to my eight-year-old beginners?

  • Hi Geraldine – I’m very interested to hear that we should avoid inversion with “tu”. What about “Comment t’appelles-tu? Quel age as-tu? Ou habites-tu?” Is the inversion OK after a question word, or should we be saying “Comment tu t’appelles? Tu as quel age? Tu habites ou?” Our French textbooks always set out these questions in inverted form for young beginners. Many thanks for the course – it’s great! Sarah

  • Merci merci for these wonderful video lessons. J’aime bien l’occasion d’apprendre quelque chose de nouveau. I am a middle school french teacher and while i love teaching the simple beginning french lessons – your videos help me improve my own french. thank you so much

  • J’adore votre video et l’explication des formes de poser une question !!! Il faut que je practice maintenant!!! Merci!!

  • Hi Geraldine!

    I like your grammar videos a lot- but I do enjoy the culture videos as well. A little bit of grammar here and there keeps me from making the same mistakes over and over again.

  • Bonjour Géraldine,
    Je sais tous les formes de poser une question. La grammaire française est très difficile et compliqué mais on peut les regarder dans beaucoup de livres et web sites; pour mois j’aime bien votre vidéos familières (colloquial) et pratiques qu’on ne trouve possiblement pas dans les livres ou littérature. Merci bien.

  • Bonjour, et merci beaucoup pour tous les postes. C’etait une lecon tres utile pour moi…j’ai oublie beaucoup de ces regles pour poser une question. J’aime une melange des sujets, and I look forward to chaque post. Merci! :>

  • Merci Geraldine!
    I prefer the inversion, even if it’s formal. I figure, better too formal than to offend, non?
    And thanks for the grammar lesson! j’ai besoin d’aid grammaire toujours!

  • Merci pour la leçon de grammaire. Je trouverais utile de voir plusieurs de ces. Ils ajoutent de la profondeur à la langue

  • Geraldine, you provide such a wonderful service! I found this lesson on correct usage of posing a question VERY helpful. I particularly like grammarwhen it is explained/demonstrated in terms of everyday speaking. Also, what about various forms of “please”, including in writing? Such as “Vouloir bien”, “S’en prier de”, etc.? Merci tant!

  • J’aime bien le idee de la video grammaire. Tout mes lecons en langage francais est immersion donc j’utilise les formes correctment (par copie) mais sans comprehension de la raison. Les videos en anglais avec l’explination sera tres utile.

  • A very useful video which reinforces the grammar in the text books. I would usually use options 1 and 2 with the ‘vous’ form when in France, as I think this covers most situations and you can’t really go wrong. I would not be dining in very posh restaurants nor do I have any close French friends, so I try and keep it simple.

  • Bonjour,
    Je ne savais pas que “veux-tu des frites” est une forme de question formelle, ni le fait que l’inversion est plus formelle que “est-ce que.” Dans la question “veux-tu des frites,” est-ce que c’est la combinaison du verbe vouloir + tu qui rend la question formelle? C’est à dire, si je pose la question “As-tu ton cahier?” à mon neveu de 8 ans, va-t-il être choqué? Merci, Géraldine.

    • Bonjour JB,

      En fait, il ne va pas être “choqué” au sens “offended”. Il sera “supris”. 😉
      C’est plutôt que l’inversion avec “tu” donne l’impression que tu es très très chic ou très très old-fashioned (ou que tu fais semblant).
      Quand on parle à un enfant, en utilisant “tu”, on est déjà dans la familiarité. Alors utiliser une inversion pour rajouter de la politesse, c’est étrange.

  • Je préfère l’inversion.

    When I visited France for the first time 3 years ago, my french was very basic. After only 4 days, my French had improved! But, our host at the hotel said to me, ” Why do they teach you that way in the US! No one speaks like that here!” He proceeded to give me some tips!

    I found this video a great review. Merci beaucoup!

  • Merci milles fois encore! Quand j’ai appris le francais (dans les annees 60s) nous avons appris former les questions ou par l’inversion ou avec “Est-ce que” mai jamais avec intonation seulement. Les langues sont vivayntes est elles changent. J’apprends beaucoup dans tes lecons.
    Et aussi, il y a 2 vois sur “split infinitive” en anglais. La regle vient du fait que c’est impossible de “split the infinitive” dans des autre langues. L’infinitif pour manger, par exemple, est “To Eat” en anglais, mais “comer” en espagnol et “taberu” en japonais. On ne peut pas les intercaler qu’en anglais. La regle n’est pas suivi par tous; c’et la difference entre les “prescriptive” vs les “descriptive” grammairians. Prescriptive grammar – les regles sont immutable; descriptive grammaire – la langue change et vit.
    la position de l’adverbe peut changer le sens.

  • The question forms were useful. I have taught French for many years and I consciously try to keep it up to date as it was a long time ago that I lived in France. All the videos are useful, the everyday expressions, the cultural bit etc. It gives me the confidence that I’m telling my students the right things and it enables them to do some self-learning with Commeunefrançaise. Merci.

  • J’ai trouve cette video tres utile et c’etais le premier fois que j’ai compris quand on doit utilise voudriez . Merci. En general j’aime le francais parle

  • Merci beaucoup Geraldine, j’aime tous les videos, surtout le language familier et I’argot. C’est tres serviable et amusant. Je trouve le grammaire un peu difficile.

  • Bonjour, Geraldine, I throughly enjoy all your videos. They are imensely helpful in tuning my ear to the sounds of spoken French as well as for the practical information you share. Thank you very much.

  • Merci, Geraldine. Tout d’abord, en anglais nous disons HOW TO ASK A QUESTION PROPERLY. It is incorrect to ‘split an infinitive’, we never put an adverb between the ‘to’ and the verb. Mais, les leçons en grammaire sont très utiles, en particulier à propos de français familier.

  • Je ne trouve pas du tout que cette video est sur le sujet de grammaire. C’est plutôt que quand les bases de grammaire sont compris, il y a des choix entre le simple ou quelque chose un peu plus compliqué. C’est bon à savoir que je ne parle pas comme un bébé quand j’utilise les phrases les plus simples. Et de plus importance, c’est aussi moins fatigant à mon pauvre cerveaux 🙂 Je te donne une petite « bravo » pendant que je m’enfiler les rues de Paris avec un peu plus de confidence.

  • Bonjour! Je toujours fais l’erreur d’inversion et le super formale. Merci pour le vidéo. Je n’ai eu aucune idée sur les formalitiés.

  • Bonjour Geraldine
    Merci encore pour un excellent video.Oui je savais cela mais c’est bien de me rappeler encore!Moi j’aime la grammaire et aussi les expressions idiomatiques .

  • Chére Geraldine
    Merci beaucoup pour votre aide et le video “Ask a Question” c’est gentil de votre part! Chrissie

  • salut, chéraldine
    i like them all – the cultural, the colloquial and now the grammatical – this latter because you took it to a depth not usually provided in textbooks or in classrooms. merci pour tous!

  • Merci Geraldine – sorry I have a qwerty keyboard so I can’t add accents to my French words here…La video etait tres interessante, comme d’hab, et je me rends compte que je n’utilise jamais l’inversion pour poser une question.

  • I am so glad that I have discovered this site! I have been trying to learn french without worrying too much about French grammar and books but I realise I do need to do some proper work to back it up before I try to get too far along. I remember these options but I did not realise that there was any difference in formality etc . I thought you could just pick any one like taking sweeties from a jar!
    I hate grammar ! I have just read a very complicated explanation of direct and indirect object pronouns . If I don’t find an easier explanation I will shoot myself !
    However I love the language and want to speak it well and do it and myself justice so a bit of grammar is welcome

  • When I studied in France in the early 1990s my teacher told me that est-ce que was more insistant than using inversion. She said she always wondered why foreigners were so pushy about our questions (since we used est-ce que). When I explained it was just easier than using inversion, she said we should be using inversion in most situations. Have things cahnged that much? Perhaps she was just a very formal person, being a university professor? In your opinion, is it true that a question with est-ce que is more insistant than other forms?

    • Bonjour Jennifer,

      Tout à fait. “Est-ce que” is a little bit more pushy than just adding a ? at the end of a phrase. It has a “Do you want it OR NOT???” meaning.

      • I love your videos Geraldine, and it’s your sharing of these tiny little nuances that are the tastiest morsels! Merci! 😉

  • En général, je n’aime pas les leçons sur la grammaire. J’ADORE les vidéos sur le sujet de “colloquial french” et aussi les “insider tricks” pour la langue française. Mais je comprends que quelque fois c’est important de couvrir les topiques comme ça. Je voudrais voir un film sur le subjunctive dans les vies françaises, tous les jours, comme les natives usent chaque jour.

  • Merci, Géraldine!
    Je viens de commencer à étudier le français.
    Tes vidéos sont intéressants et utiles et un peu de grammaire associée à la pratique est très bonne.

  • Merci Geraldine, Very clear explanation and easy to remember. However, the inversion form always makes me headache, I very seldom to use it in life, only I am asked to do exercise in the classroom. So I ask in either “Est-ce-que” or “raise up the tone at the ending (adding ?)”. But my teacher said that the Est-ce-que form is not elegant enough, one should practicse more the inversion. But I would be very easily to twist my tongue for the way. I like all you videos.

  • Merci, Géraldine! Très amusant, et utile pour améliorer mon français! Je n’avais aucune idée que l’inversion avec “tu” ne se faisais pas à la langue parlée.

  • Thank you for that explanation. While I was aware that the method of inversion was more formal than the method employing est-ce que, I didn’t appreciate that the use of the conditional was more formal again. For me, basic short grammar lessons like this are very useful and add an understanding of the language that goes beyond formal grammar.

  • Merci beaucoup, Geraldine! Moi, Je prefere les premiere deux. Le troisieme c’est un peu dificile et formal pour moi!

  • Another great video – thank you. I shall watch it again to be sure of the nuances. Un petit peu de grammaire est utile et amusant.
    Je suis un viellard. je sais que j’ai deja perdu la bataille, mais je n’aime pas le “split infinitive”. ( introduire un adverbe au
    milieu d’un infinitif, entre ‘to’ et le verbe;) Donc je prefererais “How to ask a yes/no question properly”

      • Bonjour Geraldine,

        I wouldn’t worry about the split infinitive. There is nothing grammatically wrong with splitting an infinitive in current English usage and it is very common in American English. In fact, in some cases trying not to split the infinitive produces a very awkward sounding expression. It is, however, perhaps best not to place more than a word or two between ‘to’ and the verb as this can also affect comprehension.

        Je vous remercie pour vos videos et votre conseille.



  • I always have a problem with “il faut que” in situations where in English one would say ” It is / is not necessary ” the phrase “c’nest pas necessaire” is not used in French. However ………. the word “necessaire” is used – but in which context? Help please!

  • I enjoy your video every single Tuesday and found today’s question grammar very, very useful. It is great to have a simple reminder of the basics in grammar which is presented in a way we can easily translate into day-to-day use. I find the cultural videos interesting and useful. The colloquial videos are not as much my cup of tea. The basic ‘grammar in everyday use’ reminder video was fantastic. I realise you have followers of all abilities so the colloquial is probably more interesting for the advanced or living in france clients. I am probably intermediate in my french, have a second home in Lille (where I can almost get by communicating with neighbours depending on how patient and imaginative they are when they llisten to me) and I attend an advance conversation group with other english speakers in London. I would be towards the bottom of that group in comprehension.

    Other than that, I enjoy your videos very much as it is a short and relevant way to keep in touch with my french. I watched with admiration as your venture has grown and feel that your business and marketing approach plus your rapport building with clients is very clever.

    Thank you so much.

    Cheryl Wong Rogers

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