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"est-ce que"?

The phrase "est-ce que" confuses me, because the meaning does not seem to translate word-for-word into English.

For instance, "Est-ce que tu aimes le chocolat?" Est (is) ce (this) que (what) tu (you) aimes (like), le (the) chocolat (chocolate) To me, that sentence reads as: "Is this what you like, the chocolate?" However, Duolingo said that was incorrect, and it actually says "Do you like the chocolate?" But wouldn't that be written as "Aimez-vous le chocolat?"

I would really appreciate it if someone would explain this to me!

December 30, 2017



You need to think of it as one word. You will run into others like "quoi que ce soit" - anything.


To translate "est-ce que tu aimes le chocolat?" Literally would be "is it (because c'est means it is and est-ce would mean is it) that you like the chocolate." So that means "is it that you like the chocolate" but you're not supposed to directly translate everything to French so it's basically asking if you like the chocolate. Don't take everything word for word if you want to as a question of that sort in French you can say est-ce que... Or you could reverse the pronoun and the verb so if your asking if they like something you can say "est-ce que tu aimes...." Or "aimes-tu.."

You probably don't understand but ask me to clarify anything you need to be clarified


Like others have said, word for word translation is a non-starter. It's probably most helpful to think of est-ce que as a question phrase, that you can use in place of word order inversion.

We have similarly nonsensical phrases in English. Think about the phrase "How do you do?" It means "How are you?" (which in and of itself is idiomatic anyway) and we accept that because we are used to the idiom, but if you tried to translate "How do you do?" literally/word for word into French (or another language), then you would likely come up with something that failed to express the idiomatic meaning of the phrase. Which is why word for word translations are a risky business.

TL;DR: No, it's not a word for word translation, because that's not how languages generally work, unless they're extremely closely related.

edit: the Wiktionary page is fairly helpful and not excessively technical about this https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/est-ce_que#French

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