Humanities › Languages How to Use "Est-ce Que" to Ask Questions in French Share Flipboard Email Print Jena Cumbo/Taxi/Getty Images Languages French Vocabulary Basics Pronunciation & Conversation Grammar Resources for Teachers English as a Second Language Spanish German Italian Japanese Mandarin Russian English Grammar View More 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 Four Ways to Ask Questions in French The French Expression "Il y a" Analyzed and Explained How to Use the French Interrogative Pronouns 'Qui' and 'Que' How to Properly Use Que in French Comment? ('What?') French Interrogative Adverbs 'Quel' as a French Interrogative Adjective: Which? What? Here's How to Say What in French Uses of French Inversion How to Use the French Expression "Pas de Problème" How Do You Use the French Expression "N'est-ce Pas"? How to Use the French Expression N'Importe Quoi Oh Good! How to Express Exclamations in French Speak French Like a Native: Using 'On y Va' ('Let's Go') Learn the Different Meanings of French Homophones Does "Pendant que" Need the Subjunctive? Does the French Verb 'Vouloir' Need the Subjunctive?