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how do i know what est-ce que means in a question?

i just recently started learning french and working through duolingo, the questions had simple parts of speech, such as, "allez-vous travailler?" ... but now i'm faced with using "est-ce que", which duolingo lists in its 'tips' for the lesson, that it means to do/does to make it a question. if i'm correct, i know that the phrase can really used be used for any yes/no answer, so i'm wondering how to know what the phrase means, whether it's "is", "are", "does", "did", or any other type of phrase that implies a question. i understand that english does not have this type of phrase, and the meaning of "est-ce que" will change with the context of the question, i am just confused and would appreciate some help. have a nice day!

April 30, 2020



You can read that literally: est-ce que = is it that

est-ce que tu te souviens? (Is it that you remember?)

Of course, in English, you'd probably say "Do you remember?"

It's a normal register. Neither slang nor particularly formal. It's good filler material too. You hear it in songs when they need words to fill the meter. I suspect that it is also used exactly as "is it that..." is used in English. It gives you time to think. Time to compose the question. You will hear the talking heads saying "est-ce que..." on the French news programs, followed by a pause. "Est-ce que les masques protègent l'utilisateur ou ses proches?" I think it is because they are reflecting on the question that they want to pose, just as in English some guests on talking head shows will say "Is it that..." before framing the question.


thank you for your response, i think it helps that thinking of the phrase as, "is it that", quite literally, really does frames the question. thanks again!


Good timing, Angus! I prefer your response to mine.


I like to think of it as "is it that..." for example: Est-ce que tu as termine? "Is it that you have finished?" or simply, "Have you finished?" "Est-ce que" is the more formal way of asking a question while the "vous-allez travailler" method is more common among friends.


By the way there is no hyphen in vous allez. It is either allez-vous (correct and formal) or vous allez (colloquial). Or of course Est-ce que vous allez ?


Thank you for the correction


you're completely right! didn't see the mistake until now, thank you!


thank you for your help!


There are basically 3 ways to ask a question in French. 1) "Est-ce que" followed by noun, verb. (Est-ce que vous allez chez vous? Is it that you are going to your place?) 2) Reversing subject/verb order to verb/subject (Allez-vous chez vous? Are you going to your place?). 3.) Leaving subject/verb order but using voice inflection verbally (and a question mark in writing) to show it is a question. (You are going to your place?)


Hi Mizu It's saying ' question '

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