"How much do I weigh?"
Translation:Combien je pèse ?
The regular form should be pèse-je, but it is very difficult to pronounce. That is why the verb form is changed.
Note that whenever you use the interrogative form verb-je with a verb ending with -er at the infinitive form, you will have to add this acute accent to the final -e:
- mangé-je, dansé-je, pensé-je...
However, to avoid this unusual construction, the French massively prefer using the other interrogative form: "est-ce que je pèse ?", "est-ce que je mange ?", etc.
Well, « pèse-je » is not hard to pronounce, it's just really ugly.
For the acute accent, honestly I believe you, because I don't remember the rule (we never write that). But, I can add that, despite the acute accent, we say « è ». Oraly, your list become « mangè-je », « dansè-je », « pensè-je ».
The answer to your question is easy: It's applicable to all verbs so long as the indicative or the conditional forms are used. However it sounds very formal and you usually have a 0.5% likelihood of coming across it in spoken conversations. The written form is more common and widely accepted.
Honestly, this is the first time I see that (and I'm french). I've never heard anybody say « Combien pesé-je ?» for the present time. Something that sound the same, that we say, but which is in the past, would be « Combien pesais-je ? » (“How much did I weigh?”). It may be technically true, perhaps it's something I learnt in school and forgot, but really, nobody says it!
pesé and pesais sound different to me, but that may be because one of my French teachers was a Belgian :) (His native language was Dutch, but I've heard that this distinction is common in French in Belgium.)
I pronounce "-ai" like "-é", but "-ais, -ait" like "-è". So "J'aurai" (I will have) and "J'aurais" (I would have) are distinct for me.
Here is an article that explains it well - listen to the two recordings for "like the vowel sound in weigh without the y sound at the end" (é) and "like e in bed" (è) http://french.about.com/od/pronunciation/a/e.htm
Here is a Frenchman pronouncing "pensé-je" http://www.forvo.com/word/pens%C3%A9-je/#fr
Here he is pronouncing "j'ai pensé" http://www.forvo.com/word/j%27aie_pens%C3%A9/#fr
The construction, "Qu'est-ce que je [verb]?" asks, "What thing do I do [verb] to?" In other words, it is asking for the direct object of the action in question. So your sentence would mean "What object do I weigh?"
You could ask, "Combien est-ce que je pèse?" But combining "est-ce que" with another question word, such as "combien," is bad form and unnecessary. "Je pèse combien?" is preferred.
My two choices were: "Combien je pèse?" and "Je pèse combien?" I opted to ignore the first, because it is such egregiously bad French. I know that all my friends in every level use this this way, but I'm wondering...has the Académie weighed in on this? Is the inversion obsolete? I would never say, and have never heard "Combien pesé je", so inverting any first conjugation verb is out of the question, even in jest.
The hints that you see when you mouseover the words are not (very) context-specific.
The hints are attached to an individual word or group of words, and if that word or group of words can be translated as "X" in any of Duo's sentences, then the translation "X" will appear in ever sentence containing that word, even if it isn't appropriate there.
That's why they are called "hints" and not "recommendations" or "suggestions" - something to jog your memory. You still have to determine, using the vocabulary and grammar that you have learned or are learning, whether a given hint is appropriate in a given sentence.