French Language Blog

French Interrogatives: Inversion Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 in Grammar


Jumping off my post from last week, I’ll spend more time this week describing how you can use inversion to create an interrogative sentence (a question) in French.

Inversion is when you change the order of the subject and verb in a declarative sentence to create a question. Thus, the order in the interrogative sentence will be: verb+subject+rest of the sentence (object or preposition,etc.)

For example:

Tu sais que je t’aime. (subject+verb+rest of the sentence) You know that I love you.

Sais-tu que je t’aime? (verb+subject+rest of the sentence) Do you know that I love you?

In order to invert, as you can see in the example above, you do not need to change the subject or the verb itself. But, when placing the verb before the subject, you DO need to add a hyphen to connect them.

However, as always, there are some exceptions to the pretty straightforward rule of inversion:

  1. If a third person singular verb does not end in a “t” or a “d,” you need to insert hyphenated “t” in between the verb and the subject. For example: Il a ce livre (he has this book). becomes A-t-il ce livre? (Does he have this book?). The reason for this added t is to create a liason between these two vowels in order to create a nicer sounding pronunciation.
  2. “je” (I) is rarely inverted. In some cases, it can be inverted but the form of the verb it is used with must be changed. For example: Je peux dormir maintenant (I can sleep now) becomes with inversion Puis-je dormir maintenant? (Can/could I sleep now?). Peux-je is never correct. Instead, you must always use puis-je. 

There can also be some changes to pronunciation with inversion. Typically, you should pronounce the verb+subject interrogative phrase with a liaison. Thus, if you are pronouncing the last consonant of the verb as if it were connected to the beginning of the subject. For example, dort-elle needs to be pronounced like dort-Telle.

Also, you know that you don’t normally pronounce the ending of third person plural verbs (like (ils/elles) dorment or disent). However, in their inverted form these endings must be pronounced. Thus, if you are asking if a group of people are sleeping:dorment-ils? You would actually pronounce this dorment-Tils?

Let me know any questions you may have about the rules governing inversion and pronunciation for interrogative sentences in the comments below!




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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!


  1. Letha et Hailey:

    Very well explained. We’ll take a look at some of your other posts. Letha et Hailey