Studying one of the first lessons from my French study book, I notices a strange incoherence in the following constructions:

  1. Comment tu t'appelles? (Comment at the begin of the phrase)
  2. Vous vous appelez comment? (Comment at the end of the phrase)

So, it's my take that the book is saying that both constructions are OK.

After checking this posts, it seems that Comment should not be in the begin of the phrase.

So, if "Vous vous appelez comment" is the correct form, does that mean "Comment tu t'appelles" is incorrect?

Or the form doesn't matter, both are correct and the construction "Comment vous vous appelez?" is as correct as the one with Comment at the end of the phrase?

  • 3
    This entire thread is WAY better than my last 1h30m french class I had last Tuesday.
    – vianna77
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 12:40

3 Answers 3


There are two differences between the proposed constructions:

Using tu or vous

I suppose this is not the problem and won't even stop on this. If this is a problem, I suppose a separate question would be better.

Order of the words

As Casey said, both proposed structures are used but both fall outside of the grammar rule book we learned as children. Below is a summary of all constructions I know for this question.

Please note these constructions can be applied to any question, hence another totally unrelated example for each.

Informal, almost only oral

Affimative proposition + interrogative pronoun/adverb + "_ ?_"

  • Tu t'appelles comment ? / Vous vous appelez comment ?
  • Tu es qui ? / Vous êtes qui ?

Informal, common at oral

Interrogative pronoun/adverb + affimative proposition + "_ ?_"

  • Comment tu t'appelles ? / Comment vous vous appelez ?
  • Qui tu es ? / Qui vous êtes ?


Interrogative pronoun/adverb + "est-ce que" + affimative proposition + "_ ?_"

  • Comment est-ce que tu t'appelles ? / Comment est-ce que vous vous appelez ?
  • Qui est-ce que tu es ? / Qui est-ce que vous êtes ?


Interrogative pronoun/adverb + interrogative proposition (subject inversion) + "_ ?_"

  • Comment t'appelles-tu ? / Comment vous appelez-vous ?
  • Qui es-tu ? / Qui êtes-vous ?

1. Though more formal, this may seem more natural to a native than the "common" construction depending on the question. "Qui est-ce que tu es ?" for instance, though grammatically correct, is almost never used, while "Qui es-tu ?" is standard. Natives will understand any of the above constructions nonetheless.

Thanks for noting this answer is largely based on Casey's and jlliagre's answer because I think this view is interesting.


"Comment tu t'appelles ?", along with "Comment vous vous appelez ?" are technically and grammatically incorrect, although they are commonly used in current, spoken French (something that was mentioned in the answer on the post you cited yourself).

"Comment" is perfectly acceptable at the beginning of a question if the question is formed with inversion:

Comment t'appelles-tu ? / Comment vous appelez-vous ?

or with the use of "est-ce que":

Comment est-ce que tu t'appelles ? / Comment est-ce que vous vous appelez ?

  • What about "Vous vous appelez comment?" ?
    – Random
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 8:19
  • @casey-james-garland in conclusion, the text book presented an informal construction with "Tu" because it most certainty will be used "on the streets" while the "Vous" construction was presented in its formal form because it should be used in formal situations? Is that correct? It seems coherent to me.
    – vianna77
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 12:24
  • @vianna77 That's the other way around. The "vous" construction is slightly "less correct" than the "tu" one.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 20:57
  • 1
    @vianna77 I think the best way to formally ask someone their name would be to use verb inversion, "Comment vous appelez-vous ?"
    – cccg03
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 20:59
  • 1
    @CaseyJamesGarland You should add it in your answer, since the OP talks about "Vous vous appelez comment ?" :)
    – Random
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 8:11

Neither of the 1. and 2. forms are strictly academic. The "vous" construction is slightly less correct than the "tu" one, which at least has a leading "Comment".

Based on the very same words, many combinations are possible. All of them can be commonly heard and will be understood. Here they are from colloquial to formal :

– Tu t'appelles comment ?

– Vous vous appelez comment ?

– Comment tu t'appelles ? *

– Comment vous vous appelez ?

– Comment t'appelles-tu ? **

– Comment vous appelez-vous ? **

* This is the most frequently used.

** These are the ones taught at school.

  • @CaseyJamesGarland thx !
    – jlliagre
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 4:56
  • 1
    If "vous" is used as the polite form of "tu", I wouldn't say "Comment vous vous appelez", which would be a mix of formal and informal... So IMO, it would be "Comment tu t'appelles" and "Comment vous appelez-vous" tagged as "most common"... Don't you agree ?
    – Random
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 8:19
  • @Random Maybe. I'm finally not sure now about which "vous" form is actually most used, if any, "*" removed.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 14:49
  • @Random After thinking seven years about it ;-) I believe I was right telling Comment vous vous appelez ? is the most frequently used form. You can be very formal and use tu with someone, and you can be very informal and use vous with someone. Formality, tu/vous and politeness are only loosely related to each other.
    – jlliagre
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 11:02

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