"Que cherchent les enfants ?"
Translation:What are the children looking for?
How do you know what the subject and object of this sentence is? This structure is similar to 'ils cherchent les enfants' which would mean 'they are looking for the children', not 'the children are looking for them'
It is one of the ways that French syntax is different than English. This structure is very common in French and it's worth the effort to familiarize yourself with it. Examine it. Practice by substituting other verbs and other subjects. Que écrivent les hommes ? Que mangent les chiens ? Que dit la femme ?
Yes but in which cases does the subject come first and in which cases does it come last? How do we know which is which? e.g. for 'ils cherchant les enfants' the subject comes first and in 'que cherchant les enfants' it comes last. If I didn't know that, how would I tell?
The verb form makes a huge difference. When the apparent "subject" que is singular, the verb cherchent is plural, and the apparent "object" les enfants is plural, you have to think in terms of the French idiomatic format, and reverse the order, so that the sentence reads right to left. les enfants cherchent que (Not good French grammar, BTW) "The children look for what."
If you want to maintain the sentence order, then you'd have to change the apparent subject to a plural form, to match the verb, as in "Quels cherchent les enfants* - "Which ones are looking for the children?"
If you don't want to change the "subject", then you have to change the verb to match: *Que cherche les enfant" - a rather gruesome "What is looking for the children?"
"Who" in English is both singular are plural, but even when a group of people is looking for something(s)/someone(s), so you still use a singular verb: "Who is looking for the children? All the adults in the province!" *Qui cheche les enfants? Tous les adultes de la province!"
It dosn't work in English to reverse the word order, obviously.
How do you frame questions for answers imply the subject of the answer sentence. For clarity of French grammar could you please differentiate two questions in French:- “What are looking for the children” and “Who are looking for the children”?
Does this construction apply with Qui too? Because when I put it in a translator, "Que cherchent les enfants ?" is "What are the children looking for?", but "Qui cherchent les enfants ?" is "Who are looking for the children?", not "Who are the children looking for?".
I’m not an expert in French. But whatever I know the translation goes like “What are the children looking for ?” - que cherchent les enfants?(subject verb inversion applied as question word is not the subject of the sentence ) “Who are looking for the children” - qui cherchent les enfants? ( no subject verb inversion as the question word is the subject of question sentence ) “Who are the children searching for?” - qui les enfants cherchent? / les enfants cherchent qui ? (Need to confirm with a second opinion)
I would not get too hung up on avoiding a terminal preposition. English is teeming with phrasal and prepositional verbs, and Anglo-Saxons have no problem ending a sentence with a preposition, despite generations of Latinist grammarians' nagging. It is a completely fabricated "rule". As Churchill is said to have remarked, "This is the sort of arrant nonsense up with which I will not put!"
my guess is that since it's a question beginning with "que" the subject and verb are reversed, but for some reason it's not hyphenated because there's an article in between them. that's just a guess.