Languages › French How to Use "Est-ce Que" to Ask Questions in French Share Flipboard Email Print Jena Cumbo/Taxi/Getty Images French Vocabulary Pronunciation & Conversation Grammar Resources For Teachers by ThoughtCo Updated January 31, 2019 Est-ce que (pronounced "es keu") is a French expression that is useful for asking a question. Literally translated, this phrase means "is it that...," although in conversation it rarely is interpreted that way. Instead, it is a convenience of everyday French, an interrogatory phrase that easily turns a statement into a question. It is a slightly informal construction; the more formal or polite way to ask questions is with inversion, which involves inverting the normal pronoun/noun + verb order. But in everyday spoken French, est-ce que is far more common because it does the inverting for you: Est-ce que is the inversion of c'est que. (Note that a hyphen is required between ce and est when they are inverted to est-ce.) The word order of the original sentence stays exactly the same; you just add the already inverted phrase est-ce que to the front of the sentence. This simple structure works best for yes/no questions. For example: Tu travailles. / Est-ce que tu travailles? > You work. / Do you work? Paulette l'a trouvé. / Est-ce que Paulette l'a trouvé? > Paulette found it. / Did Paulette find it? Vous n'avez pas faim. / Est-ce que vous n'avez pas faim? > You aren't hungry. / Aren't you hungry? OR Are you not hungry? Note that que must contract when it follows a word beginning with a vowel: Elle est arrivée. / Est-ce qu'elle est arrivée? > She has arrived. / Has she arrived? Il y a des problèmes. / Est-ce qu'il y a des problèmes? > There are problems. / Are there problems? Anny vient avec nous. / Est-ce qu'Anny vient avec nous? > Anny is coming with us. > Is Anny coming with us? To ask questions that ask for information like "who," "what," "where," "when," "why" and "how," place an interrogative pronoun, adverb or adjective before est-ce que. For example: Qui est-ce que vous avez vu? > Whom did you see?Quand est-ce que tu vas partir? > When are you going to leave?Quel livre est-ce qu'il veut? > Which book does he want? Remember that est-ce que is the inversion of c'est que, meaning literally, "It is that." That's why a hyphen is required between est and ce: c'est = ce + est which are inverted to est-ce. Depending on their place in the sentence, the variations qu'est-ce qui and qui est-ce qui are also useful, but understanding them requires further discussion of interrogative pronouns. For now, here's a summary. SUMMARY OF FRENCH INTERROGATIVE PRONOUNS Subject of question Object of question After preposition People quiqui est-ce qui quiqui est-ce que qui Things qu'est-ce qui quequ'est-ce que quoi Additional Resources Asking questions in FrenchFrench interrogativesExpressions with êtreMost common French phrases Continue Reading How to Use the French Interrogative Pronouns 'Qui' and 'Que' Uses of French Inversion Four Ways to Ask Questions in French How to Properly Use Que in French The French Expression "Il y a" Analyzed and Explained 'Quel' as a French Interrogative Adjective: Which? What? Comment? ('What?') French Interrogative Adverbs Here's How to Properly Say (or Ask) "What?" in French Speak French Like a Native: Using 'On y Va' ('Let's Go') The Many Ways of Asking "How Are You" in French With Answers Making Sense of the French Expression Par Contre The Basics of French Word Order with Inversion Vouloir Is a Very Polite and Important French Verb French Expressions with Être How to Use the French Expression N'Importe Quoi How Can I Express Possession in French?