French Grammar – Sentences

Subject – Verb – Direct object – Indirect object

If…

Si…
With present tense (le présent):
(1) Si + (le présent), (le futur simple)
Example: If you finish your homework, I’ll give you some candies.
Si tu finis tes devoirs, je te donnerai des bonbons.
(2) Si + (le présent), (l’impératif)
Example: If you are cold, close the window.
Si tu as froid, ferme la fenêtre.
With imperfect (l’imparfait) past tense (to express hypothetical situations):
(3) Si + (l’imparfait), (le conditionnel)
Example: If I had a million dollars, I would buy a house.
Si j’avais un million de dollars, j’achèterais une maison.
With “plus-que-parfait” (also to express hypothetical situations):
(4) Si + (le plus-que-parfait), (le conditionnel passé)
Example: If I had known (or “had I known”) computers were so useful, I would have taken a computer course.
Si j’avais su que les ordinateurs étaient si utiles, j’aurais suivi un cours de l’informatique.

Interrogation

Formation

Intonation

As in English, raising the tone at the end of a sentence can turn it into a question.
Example:
Il aime les bonbons. He likes sweets.
Il aime les bonbons? Does he like sweets?

Est-ce que…

“Est-ce que” literally means “Is it that”, understood as “Is it true that”, and can be used to form questions. To form a question with “Est-ce que…”, attach “Est-ce que…” at the beginning of the sentence. Sometimes “que” has to be modified to “qu'” for elision.
Example: Il aime ce film. => Est-ce qu’il aime ce film ?
(He likes this film. => Does he like this film?)

Inversion

This is considered to be the most formal way to ask a question out of the three.
(The indicative form of the following sentences will be placed in parentheses for comparison.)
To ask a question by inversion, simple invert the verb and the subject (the pronoun) and insert a hyphen (un trait d’union) in between.
Example: Do you like apples? (You like apples.)
Aimes-tu les pommes ? (Tu aimes les pommes.)
In the case where the verb ends in a vowel while the subject starts with one, a “t” needs to be inserted to avoid elision.
Example: Did she make the decision already? (She made the decision already.)
A-t-elle déjà pris la décision ? (Elle a déjà pris la décision.)
(Notice that for compound tense [les temps composés], only the avoir or être part is interchanged with the subject.)
For third person plural (verbs ending in “ent”), there is no need to insert the “t”.
Example: Are they buying a house? (They are buying a house.)
Achètent-ils une maison ? (Ils achètent une maison.)
If the subject is a noun instead of a pronoun, invert the verb and the pronoun that represents the subject.
Example: Did Marie choose this shirt? (Marie chose this shirt.)
‘Marie a-t-elle choisi cette chemise ? (Marie a choisi cette chemise.)
For negative such as “ne…pas”, the verb should be inserted in between:
Example: Didn’t you eat the whole pizza? (You didn’t eat the whole pizza.)
N’as-tu pas mangé la pizza entière ? (Tu n’as pas mangé la pizza entière.)
If there is a direct or indirect object (complément d’objet [in]direct), it goes before the verb.
Example: Have you been there? (You have been there.)
Y es-tu allé(e) ? (Tu y es allé(e).)

Question words

  • Où ? – Where?
  • Quand ? – When?
  • Pourquoi ? – Why?
  • Comment ? – How?
  • Quel/Quels/Quelle/Quelles ? – Which?
  • Qui ? – Who?
  • Combien ? – How much?
  • Quoi ? – What?
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