Why You Should Never Say “As-tu ?” in Spoken French (Spoken French Lesson!)

One difference between spoken and written French is how we ask questions. There is the “correct” written French version… and the informal one, that native French speakers actually use in everyday conversations.

Quiz Question: What are three ways to ask in French: “What do you want?”

You’ll find the answer below, at the end of this lesson!

1 – Yes / No questions: “As-tu… ?” → “T’as… ?”

a) Correct grammar for written French

How to make “Yes / No” questions in “proper” correct French grammar:
1. Start with the affirmation.
2. Invert the verb and the subject pronoun, and a small dash in between
3. Add an interrogation point at the end

“Correct” French grammar uses l’inversion (= the inversion) for “Yes / No” questions. It’s the same as in English! For instance:
Tu as l’heure. = You have the time.
As-tu l’heure ? = Do you have the time?

b) Informal French grammar: no inversion

Using “l’inversion” in spoken French sounds extremely formal.

How to make “Yes / No” questions in real informal everyday spoken French conversation:
1. Start with the affirmation
2. Add an interrogation point at the end of a sentence
3. Add an upward voice inflection at the end

For example:
Elle est là. = She’s here. → Elle est là ? = Is she here?

c) Informal French pronunciation: eating letters and negation

French people love to skip letters – so we can speak even faster!

  • In real spoken French, “Tu” becomes T’ before a vowel.
  • We often add a simple “pas” in questions, to turn them in the negative (as in English).

For example:
Tu as faim. = You’re hungry.
Tu as faim ? = Are you hungry?
→ More often: T’as faim ? = Are you hungry? / T’as pas faim ? = Aren’t you hungry?

2 – French questions with “Est-ce que” ?

Est-ce que = “Is it that ?” (literally) is a common way to ask questions. It’s pronounced like [“eskuh”].

a) How to make questions with “Est-ce que ?”

Using “Est-ce que” to make a Yes / No question:
1. Add “Est-ce que” before any affirmation, and a “?” at the end.

That’s it.

It’s like a built-in inversion. For example:
Martin est là. = Martin’s here. → Est-ce que Martin est là ? = Is Martin here?

b) Why use “Est-ce que” for Yes / No questions

Why use “Est-ce que” for Yes / No questions:

  • It’s correct French grammar.
  • We also use it in everyday spoken French.
  • It’s a bit longer than the other options, so it’s less ambiguous.
  • It’s somewhat more regular.

c) Examples

Starting from an affirmation:
Le chat est sur le canapé. = The cat is on the couch.
Est-ce que le chat est sur le canapé ? = Is the cat on the couch?

Starting from a formal question:
Êtes-vous là ? = Are you here? (with inversion)
→ (affirmation without inversion) Vous êtes là. = You are here.
Est-ce que vous êtes là ? = Are you here?

Starting from an informal question:
T’es prête ? = Are you ready ? (no inversion already)
Est-ce que tu es prête ? or Est-ce que t’es prête ?

3 – Interrogative pronouns: “Où es-tu ?” → “T’es où ?”

a) Asking French questions with “Où”, “Qui”, “Quand”

  • Où ? = Where?
    • Où vas-tu ? (formal) = Where are you going? = Pronoun + verb + subject (inversion)
    • est-ce que tu vas ? (less informal) = Pronoun + est-ce que + subject + verb
    • Tu vas où ? (informal) = Subject + verb + pronoun (no inversion)
  • Qui ? = Who? (subject)
    • Qui a dit ça ? (normal: the pronoun is subject so there’s no inversion anyway.)
    • Qui est-ce qui a dit ça ? = Who said that?
  • Quand ? = When?
    • Ils arrivent quand ? (informal)
    • Quand est-ce qu’ils arrivent ? (less informal)
    • Quand arrivent-ils ? (formal) = When are they arriving?

b) Other interrogative pronouns
The same structures apply to other interrogatives pronouns, like:

  • Pourquoi ? = Why?
    • Pourquoi tu as fait ça ? (informal)
    • Pourquoi est-ce que tu as fait ça ? (less informal)
    • Pourquoi as-tu fait ça ? (formal) = Why did you do that?

And other common interrogative pronouns such as:

  • Comment ? = How ?
  • Combien ? = How much ? How many?
  • D’où? = From where ? Where… from?
  • Lequel ? = Which one ?

c) Special case: Que / Quoi (= What) and “Qu’est-ce que”

The interrogative pronoun “Que” (= What… ?) becomes Qu’ before a vowel… and Quoi at the end of a sentence.
For example:

  • Que fais-tu ? (formal) = What are you doing?
  • Qu’est-ce que tu fais ? (less informal) (before a vowel)
  • Tu fais quoi ? (informal) (placed at the end)

Qu’est-ce que (= “what is” or “what does”) is very common. It’s placed at the beginning of a question. In informal French, we can also replace it with “quoi” at the end:

  • Qu’est-ce que c’est ?C’est quoi ? = What is this?
  • Qu’est-ce que tu fais ?Tu fais quoi ? = What are you doing?

Extra ressources and Your Next Lessons:

If you enjoyed this lesson, you’ll love:

Quiz Answer:

What do you want? =
– Formal: Que veux tu ?
– Informal: Tu veux quoi ?
– Middle: Qu’est-ce que tu veux ?

Bonne journée,



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Join the conversation!

  • Puis-je faire une suggestion?
    Je me permets de faire une suggestion?
    has been suggested as an alternative which would comply with your non-inversion criterion
    But that’s long winded.

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