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A friend of mine and I was discussing around the difference between “Vous êtes” and “Êtes-vous” – and I couldn't conclude nothing.

So, are “Vous êtes” and “Êtes-vous” the same thing? If not, what is the difference? Is “Êtes-vous” for questions? And, can I say the following?

Vous êtes beau/belle.

Êtes-vous beau/belle.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

In formal language, affirmations have subject – verb – object complements order and yes/no questions have verb – subject – object complements order. So,

  • Vous êtes beau is an affirmation.
  • Êtes-vous beau ? is a yes/no question.

(If the subject is not already a pronoun, it comes first and a pronoun is added after the verb to form questions. E.g. Pierre est-il beau ?)

In casual language you'll find two more ways to ask a question:

  • Est-ce que vous êtes beau ?

    Here, subject–verb inversion is limited (internal) to the universal “Est-ce que” question introducer.

  • Vous êtes beau ? …with the appropriate intonation.

    In this case only the intonation (or the question mark in writing) allows one to understand it's a question.

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The second form is missing a question mark so should be:

Êtes-vous beau/belle ?


Are you handsome?

and cannot be but a question, the first one is just a statement (or a lazy/casual style question).

You are handsome[?]

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