To ask a question, you have several more or less formal alternatives:
- Ma femme vit-elle ici ? (very formal)
- Est-ce que ma femme vit ici ? (quite formal)
- Ma femme vit ici ? (informal)
Does this mean that repeating the subject (in pronoun form) after the verb in a question would make it very formal? Does this rule apply to all questions in French?
The Verb-Subject inversion characteristic of the formal interrogative form in French.
Repeating subject with a pronoun form does not occur in all types of questions:
- où ma femme vit-elle ? = où vit ma femme ? = où est-ce que vit ma femme ? = où est-ce que ma femme vit ?
NB: All the above examples are formal, yet the use of "est-ce que" belongs to the standard register, i.e. a bit less formal.
Is, Ma femme vit-elle ici, something you say after you have some clue that your wife is living somewhere, or is it something you say to investigate where your wife lives?
In English the first would be, My wife lives HERE? The second would be, Does my wife life here? Which one does this question intend to ask?
in a perfect world, you should pick the translation that is the closest to the register the original sentence belongs to. Unfortunately, Duo does not always propose translations but adaptations:
"ma femme vit ici ?" would match "my wife lives here ?" (genuine, casual question or fake question / exclamation).
"does my wife live here?" = "ma femme vit-elle ici ?" or "est-ce que ma femme vit ici ?" - neutral question, your intentions do not show.
Interesting. I said "My wife, does she live here?" and was marked wrong. We'll see if they accept my alternative translation!
Your comments on verb-subject inversion, what they are and how they are applied was very helpful.
Now if I can just find some way to remember that when I hear them. Otherwise, it's just like in this dictation example.....vitelle!!??!! Never heard of it, can't find it in the dictionary, can't think of a word that sounds similar that makes any sense......
First time you hear it, of course you cannot guess. But remembering things is mechanical: repetition and practice will help tremendously!
In addition, you should not hear "Vit-elle ?" in isolation. Most probably there will be an adjunct of some kind: "à Londres ?" and "elle" will have been mentioned by name before.
For your information Vittel is a registered trade mark: a competitor of Evian water. And, like Evian, it is the name of a quiet town (département: Vosges, region: Lorraine).
And there is a Club Med, there, on top of the mineral water.
My comment about not having heard it before was about my reaction to it, not that it shouldn't be there or somehow made more clear.
Most inversions do make sense but the elle in this one does make make sense to an English speaker as it is superfluous (in English). Whenever I hear rather than see these kinds of inversions, the whole concept slips my mind and I make ever wilder guesses as to what the word could be.
When I see the answer, my reaction is ...of course it was an inversion. At some level, I must have known about it because I had the spelling right except I forgot about the hyphen.
Is it not correct the same word order in English? Like this "My wife, does she live here?".