I saw it in the tale Le Vilain Caneton. I don't understand how come there's an inversion "es-tu" if it isn't a question?

The whole sentence:

Tu n'es pas comme les autres, peut-être es-tu une dinde !

  • Perhaps this is a rather silly question and inversion also takes place when expressing a doubt or making a conjecture. Which make sense since they all are questions of some sort. But I am light years far from being fluent in French so I need to hear what you guys say.
    – noam b
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 7:23
  • @Legomononc'bléd'Ingres so it isn't correct then?
    – noam b
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 8:15
  • 1
    Just saying there's a spelling mistake with peut-être in the source material (a retelling of the original tale for learners). Thank you.
    – user3177
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Regardless of whether it is explicitly a question or not, the inversion is the rule in French when a sentence starts with Peut-être unless it is Peut-être que.

  • Peut-être es-tu une dinde ! is very correct and literary.

  • Peut-être tu es une dinde ! is very incorrect but might be heard in lazy/broken/childish French.

  • Peut-être que tu es une dinde ! is what you commonly hear in spoken French.

References: oqlf and cntl.

  • That was very useful to know, thank you very much
    – noam b
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 11:35
  • @jiliagre : il y a une petite faute de conjugaison sur la version avec inversion du sujet (deuxième personne du singulier).
    – Chop
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 11:39
  • 1
    @Legomononc'bléd'Ingres Claudel a sûrement voulu éviter « Peut-être sera-ce le matin » qui, bien que correct, heurte l'oreille.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 13:17
  • Re: « Peut-être ce sera le matin. » (Claudel) : possible. // Voir aussi au LBU §383 et ss. pour certaines nuances (peut-être ailleurs qu'en début de phrase, ou séparé de l'inversion par d'autres éléments etc.) et des exemples toujours surprenants, tel « Peut-être il redoute mon contact. » (Jouhandeau), possiblement senti comme « négligé » en effet.// +1
    – user3177
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 22:32
  • Literary* (pas litterary) Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 3:49

This is not strange. You must pronounce it like an exclamation not a question.
it sounds better to me than "peut-être tu es une dinde !" (which is what most people would probably say nowadays).

  • Indeed this is quite common for interpolated clauses (called propositions incises in French), but less common in speech than in writting. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 10:33
  • Most people would say Peut-être que tu es une dinde !
    – jlliagre
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 11:16

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