I had a French test the other day and one of the questions was this one:

Transformez les questions informelles en questions formelles en utilisant l’inversion, comme dans l’exemple : Vous allez au cinéma ce soir ? --> Allez-vous au cinéma ce soir ?

  1. Elle habite où ? ____________________________

  2. Qu’est-ce qu’ils feront après le concert ? _________________________________

  3. Marc va à Lille quand ? _______________________

I managed to get the first two examples right:

  1. Où habite-t-elle?

  2. Que feront-ils après le concert?

but for the third one I wrote Quand va Marc à Lille ? which was incorrect. My teacher told me it should be Quand Marc va-t-il à Lille ?

I've never heard of this before, do people really use that form or is it just prescribed in grammars?


3 Answers 3


Quand Marc va-t-il à Lille?

is the answer. It's said and heard, but maybe declining in usage. It sounds a bit too "correct". We might lower the language level in conversation by saying:

Quand est-ce que Marc va à Lille?

  • Too bad; the internal rhyme and rhythm of "va-t-il à Lille" is so nice. :p
    – Luke Sawczak
    Mar 10, 2017 at 16:18
  • 2
    Hey - you can absolutely use it :-) Sometimes also with kids, we intentionally use the over-correct form to teach them proper French. And sometimes we use "over-correct" forms just because we like speaking "correctly" :-)
    – Frank
    Mar 10, 2017 at 16:22
  • 1
    I'd add that one of the reasons for which "Quand Marc va-t-il à Lille?" sounds slightly weird is that in formal usage we wouldn't use the present tense to talk about the future. "Quand ira-t-il à Lille?" or "Quand ira Marc à Lille?" is how I would hear it in formal talk, with "Quand Marc va-t-il à Lille?" being a kind of hybrid of formal and common usage.
    – Pertinax
    Mar 10, 2017 at 22:52
  • 1
    Et encore: Quand c'est qu'il y va, à Lille, Marc?, C'est quand qu'il va à Lille, Marc?, C'est quand qu'y va à Lille, le Marc? ... on n'arrête pas le progrès ;-)
    – Frank
    Mar 11, 2017 at 5:30
  • 1
    Oui, on peut dire Marc, quand va-t-il à Lille?, ou peut-être pas. Un peu bizarre, et ce Marc en tête de phrase ne semble pas bien situé. Pourquoi le Marc? Ha! :-) c'est une tournure très familière et campagnarde, dans certaines régions. Ce n'est pas considéré "correct". Encore une, pour la route: c'est quand qu'y vas-t'y à Lille, le Marc?. J'ai entendu une de mes grand-mères parler comme ça dans le Limousin, il y a longtemps.
    – Frank
    Mar 11, 2017 at 19:27

Yes, people use it. And yes, it is formal , but not more formal than the two others examples. The test was about transforming the informal questions into formal ones, and in that case it is completely correct. The three examples are definitely something you would write (and read), less likely something you would say - except in particularly classy circumstances.

The amazing part is, the first question is actually the exact same and you got it right! Basically, it is the "inversion rule" (verb then pronoun), with an extra "-t-" to link the two words (which you have from the silent t in "feront-ils").

  • 4
    The answer to number 3 is not the same as the answer to number 1, since in no. 1 he did not need to add a pronoun. Had no. 3 read "Il va à Lille quand ?" the OP probably would have answered correctly.
    – Geoff Ball
    Mar 8, 2017 at 7:41

This sentence sounds like something that will happen, so in my opinion the most correct and precise translation in french would be (using future):

Quand Marc ira t-il à Lille ?

It is not an exact translation, as it change the time used in the sentence, but it is more litteral.

  • It depends on the context. For example, if the answer is "Tous les dimanches." (Every Sunday), then "Quand Marc va-t-il à Lille ?" is more appropriate. Mar 10, 2017 at 13:25

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