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subject pronoun before or after verb?

Hi there. I am currently studying French at GCSE and have a keen interest in the language - I've been studying it for almost 4 years now. Firstly, I'm sorry if I've posted this in the wrong place!

Something I have always really wondered, is which are the right way to actually form some verbs in sentences.

For example, is it: Parlez-vous francais? or Vous parlez francais?

I know that Parlez-vous Francais is more common, but does it actually matter? And why?

How do you know whether the subject pronoun (je, tu, il/elle/on, nous, vous, ils/elles) comes before or after the verb?

Thanks in advance.

August 2, 2017



In French there are three ways to indicate a question:

  • Add est-ce que to the beginning (Est-ce que vous parlez français ?)
  • Inverted subject-verb order (Parlez-vous français ?)
  • Raise the pitch of your voice at the end of the sentence (Vous parlez français↑↑↑ ?)

The last one is actually not mutually exclusive with the other two, but the first and second are mutually exclusive. But - here's the point - raising the pitch of your voice at the end of the sentence is sufficient to indicate a question. If you do that, you don't have to switch the order of subject and verb.

Now, that way of making a question is somewhat colloquial, so sounds a little odd to phrase "Do you speak French?" as Vous parlez français ? ; I would stick with Parlez-vous français ? if you're going to use vous. By contrast, inverted subject-verb order is somewhat formal, which makes Parles-tu français sound a little odd, whereas Tu parles français ? is probably more natural. The operative terms here are "a little odd" and "somewhat colloquial": it doesn't actually make a huge difference which method you choose and you'll be understood either way.

(And by the way, est-ce que is really just an extension of inverted subject-verb order: est-ce que - so you might say that on a deep level, there's really only two ways of making a question: raising the pitch of your voice and inverted subject-verb order.)


Ah, okay so it just seems to be used as a means of context. Thank you for your help, it is greatly appreciated!


I think Parlez-vous is more polite to say then Vous parlez. And Vouz parlez just doesn't sound right. I think mostly after, but I can't verify. Parlez-vous, but in question form I think it is Qu-est que-tu parlez or Qu-est que-vouz parlez. But I completely butchered that spelling.


People tend not to really use the inverted way to form a question


Thank you everybody, this has been answered sufficiently.

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