Cinq Nord | A French Language Sandbox



In French, the noun-verb order can be inverted to verb-noun when asking a question. This is done in English as well, but not in all cases. The inversion includes a hypen:

Vous avez un maison.— You have a house.
Avez-vous un maison?— Have you a house?
Vous avez allé au marché.— You have gone to the market.
Avez-vous allé au marché?— Have you gone to the market?

When negated, the ne/n' precedes the verb, while the pas follows the inverted noun. The compounded verb-noun is a helpful reminder:

Ne sommes-nous pas à les Etas-Unis maintenant?— Aren't we in the United States now?

With few exceptions, je is not inverted. Questions can be asked with a rising intonation, or with Est-ce que?:

Je suis l'homme pour le travaille?— Am I the man for the job?
Est-ce que je suis le mieux?— Is it that I am the best?

However, être, pouvior, and devoir can have an inverted first-person subject, although this is considered somewhat formal speech:

Suis-je à la heure?— Am I on time?
Puis-je que reste ici?— Can I stay here?
Dois-je que descendre ici?— Must I descend here?

In some cases, a -t- is placed within an inverted form to aid pronunciation. This happens when a verb form ends in a vowel. It also is in common use with the phrase Y a-t-il... ("Is there…? Are there…?"):

A-t-on assez nourriture?— Have we have enough food?
Y a-t-il une libre en votre sac?— Is there a book in your bag?

However, these may be simplified in common speech:

Il y a assez nourriture?— Is there enough food?
Il y a une libre en votre sac?— Is there a book in your bag?

Questions with noun subjects

Questions using inverted verb-noun formations that have a noun subject, will restate the subject using the subject's pronoun. This formation can be found in English:

Michel a-t-il un velo?— Michael, has he a bicycle? (Does Michael have a bicycle?)

Note how a simplified form of this is "Michel a un velo?" ("Michael has a bicycle?"). French adds a couple of extra details. The pronoun il creates the phrase "Michael a il un velo?" ("Michael, has he a bicycle?"). And the -t- is added between the a and il strictly to aid prononciation — it is pronounced, but it refers to nothing and cannot be translated to English.

Cinq Nord | A French Language Sandbox