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French Inversions

Hello, I consider myself still somewhat a beginner in French and I remember my teacher said that in French, you can switch the verbs and subjects around, but what are the rules to this? How does it work? Example: Comment tu t'appelles? Commnt t'appelles-tu?

Merci d'avance!

October 2, 2017


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French inversions are one of the common ways of asking a question in French so I am going to presume that this is the underlying question. There are several ways to ask questions:

  • est-ce que : Using "est-ce que" before a statement turns it into a question. Ex: Tu manges une banane ?= you are eating a banana. Est-ce que tu manges une banane ? = Are you eating a banana? The "est-ce que" is not really translated (literally) at all. Using "est-ce que" to form a question is considered to be standard French.
  • Inversion : Flip the standard subject-verb order to verb-subject to form a question. You must separate them with a hyphen « - ». Vous écrivez une letter = you are writing a letter. Écrivez-vous une lettre ? = Are you writing a letter? Using inversion is the most formal language you can use to ask a question.
  • Inflection : Use a standard statement but put a rising voice inflection at the end. In spoken French, this is quite common. Tu manges une pomme (no inflection) = you are eating an apple. Tu mange une pomme ? (with an inflection) = Are you eating an apple?
  • n'est-ce pas ? : If you want to ask a question and you presume that the hearer will agree with you, you may make a direct statement and add the expression "n'est-ce pas ?" at the end. It's rather like saying, "isn't it?" or "isn't that so?"

You can find out more by reading the Tips Notes that Duolingo provides at the bottom of a topic menu (web version only) or visit one of the many helpful on-line resources, e.g., https://www.thoughtco.com/questions-in-french-1368935


you are on the right track. questions can be phrased in any number of ways. s’appeler is a reflexive verb and does add a twist with the extra pronoun. comment t’appelles-tu?, comment tu t’appelles? and tu t’appelles comment? are all used. it is simply a matter of how you like to use the language. the appropriate questioning tone and facial expression will help you sell it. as for other non-reflexive verbs- there are three ways to get it done: I’m going to use ‘lire’ to read and the formal vous...lisez-vous?...vous lisez?...est-ce que vous lisez?...the est-ce que form is great because it gives you a couple of syllables to think of the verb you want to use. here’s a wonderful resource: https://www.laits.utexas.edu/tex/gr/int1.html . best of luck


'Tu t'appelles' ends with an 's', so it should be:

  • Comment t'appelles-tu ?
  • Comment tu t’appelles ?
  • Tu t'appelles comment ?

(There is also a space before the question mark in French.)


it happens when you ask questions, it is the more formal and correct way to ask a question, but you are less likely to hear this in spoken french. you are more likely to here questions with 'est-ce que...' or just the normal sentence with an inflection at the end to imply a question e.g tu vas bien? is much more common than vas-tu bien?


'Vas-tu bien ?' only exists in theory. Combining a formal construction (inversion) with the informal you is extremely rare. The opposite (informal construction with formal you) is possible, though. Example: 'Vous allez bien ?'

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