Everything You Need to Know About the French Adverb 'Comment'

Exclamation point surrounded by colored question marks
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The French adverb comment is one of the most common in the language. It means "how" or "what" and can function as an interrogative or exclamative adverb. In conversation, you may use this word to ask someone's name or to clarify your understanding. It can even be used as a means of expressing incredulity at something you've heard or read.

Usage

Comment is the French equivalent of "how." Here are some examples:

  • Comment vas-tu? > How are you? (Literally, "how are you going?")
  • Comment as-tu fait ça? How did you do that?

With être, comment means "what is ___ like?"

  • Comment est-il? > What's he like?
  • Comment est ta maison? > What is your house like?

It also can be used to ask someone's name:

  • Comment t'appelles-tu? > What's your name?
  • Comment s'appelle-t-elle? > What is her name?

Comment is also used to say "what?" when you didn't hear or can't believe something: 

  • Philippe est mort. > Philippe is dead.
  • Comment? > What?

It is found in a few simple exclamative constructions:

  • Tu as bien mangé? Et comment! > Did you eat well? And how! I sure did! I should say so!
  • Comment donc! > Of course! By all means!

Exceptions

There are a number of uses of "how" in English that are not translated by comment in French. For instance:

  • How about (we do something)? > Et si (on fait quelque chose)?
  • How about you? > Et toi?
  • How about that! > Ça alors!
  • How big/long/tall is it/he? > Combien mesure-t-il?
  • How come? > Pourquoi ? (or Comment ça se fait?)
  • How far is ___? > ___ est à quelle distance ? ___ est à combien?
  • How much/many? > Combien?
  • How much is it / does it cost? > Combien ça coûte?
  • How old are you? > Quel âge as-tu?
  • to know how to do something > savoir faire quelque chose