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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is: What are the types of questions in French and how do I make them?
There are three different question forms in French: colloquial, standard, and formal.
The colloquial form is the simplest. You take a statement, like Tu rentres chez toi, or "You're going back home" and simply raise your tone at the end of the sentence to make it a question. Tu rentres chez toi? "You're going back home?"
Because it's colloquial, it's mostly used in casual, conversational settings, or between people who have a friendly relationship. If you saw it written, it might be part of a script or a dialogue.
The standard oral and written question form uses est-ce que. Putting est-ce que at the beginning of a sentence indicates that it's a question.
For the previous example, you'd say Est-ce que tu rentres chez toi? "Are you going back home?" You can use this standard question structure in any setting; formal or casual, written or spoken.
A variation of est-ce que is qu'est-ce que, with an abbreviated que in front. It's basically the English "what" at the beginning of a sentence. For example, Qu'est-ce qu'on va faire demain? means, "What are we doing tomorrow?"
For other types of questions, you can replace qu' with pourquoi, quand, or où. For example, Quand est-ce que tu viens, “When are you coming?” Pourquoi est-ce qu’il est triste? “Why is she sad?” or Où est-ce qu’elle a étudié? “Where did she study?”
Lastly, there's the formal question form. This is appropriate in very formal settings and in literary writing, but would be pretty weird in casual settings.
In this form, you switch the verb and pronoun around. In this register, you probably wouldn't be using tu, so in the previous example, "Are you going back home?" it would be Rentrez-vous chez vous? with the polite vous address.
Another example is, Que fait-il? for "What does he do?" or, Avez-vous fini? which is a polite way to ask, "Have you finished?" In the est-ce que form, you would say Qu’est-ce qu’il fait? and Est-ce que vous avez fini? The casual way to say “What does he do?” would be, Il fait quoi? and for “Have you finished?” it would be Vous avez fini?
But remember, est-ce que is acceptable in most formal situations, and the colloquial form is what you will be using in most casual situations. So you shouldn't need to use the formal question form much.
Hope that clarifies some things! If you have other questions, leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer them!
A bientôt, see you soon!