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Je sais où est le livre?

Read these two sentences:

Je sais où il est. Je sais où est le livre.

Is there any reason why "est" is before the noun in the second sentence, while it is after the pronoun in the first? In English, the second wouldn't make any sense:

"I know where is the book"

Why is there subject-verb inversion there? You're not asking a question. In fact, you are basically answering a question!

I know that languages don't translate word for word, and the English way might be seen as weird to other languages, but any sort of inkling on why this might be would be greatly appreciated. Did the French just decide that a verb after a noun (but not a pronoun) sounded bad and so they changed it, just like how "ma amie" goes to "mon amie" for no other purpose than to make it flow?

Merci d'avance!


March 14, 2018



You can actually say "je sais où le livre est" as well but that's a bit harder to say so I guess you're probably right about the flow thing


I am also wondering whether we can say "je sais où est il". Anyway, I do think "je sais où est il" sounds better than "je sais où il est".


I am also wondering whether we can say "je sais où est il".

No, we cannot.

Anyway, I do think "je sais où est il" sounds better than "je sais où il est".

Not to my French ears. ;)


So, this is how I understand it when saying "Je sais où......"

You keep the verb after the pronoun, but you put the verb before the noun.

I'm assuming that there's no real explanation for this? Just wondering-I know languages are things filled with exceptions and differences! Still, any insight at all is appreciated (although I know that there's probably no answer).

Thanks again!



You can only invert the pronoun and the verb if you want to make an interrogative question. "Est-il" implies a question mark in the end of the sentence, so the one you wrote is complete nonsense for a French native like me


That's exactly why "Je sais où est le livre" sounds like nonsense to an English speaker when translated word for word. "Où est le livre" by itself is a question, translating to "where is the book." So, by adding a "Je sais" to the beginning but keeping the same word order, you get "I know where is the book," which implies a question mark at the end as well, even though it's a statement. If you translated it word for word into French from English, you'd get "Je sais où le livre est."


Yeah, I get why it is weird to someone who is learning the language now. But the way a french phrase is constructed (and this is how we teach it to children) is : "Groupe du nom" "Groupe verbial" "Complément du verbe" (So "name group" is like "the beautiful woman", then "verbal group" is "(pronoun) verb" and "Verb complement" is a lot of different things. For example, "Je sais où est le livre". "Je is in the name group cause it's the subject" Let's forget about "sais où" and skip to "est le livre" cause it's a bit more complicated. "Est" is the verb group. If you were to talk about the book with "Il", you would say "Je sais où il est" because "il" is in the verb group and it goes before the verb because it's not a question. But since we never talked about the book before, we need to add it in the "Verb complement" section cause when you say "Je sais où est" You ask where is WHAT? , and that "WHAT" is the complement. I don't know how to explain it better but that's how it is..


I guess it's just how French works? Like how when you express love for someone you'll say "Je t'aime." But it literally translates to "I you love". I always get confused with literal translations and the actual translations.


I intrinsically like the way the second one sounds, ca marche, et les francophones, toutes savent le.

Forgive me if my French is bad, feel free to correct me. Don't worry about the accents I'm just being lazy.


Tous le savent* ;) I don't know who you were replying to though

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