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I want to turn the following statement into a question using “est-ce”: Son neveu est très amusant. My first thought was that it would be translated as follows:

Est-ce que son neveu très amusant?

But then I rewrote it again and wrote it as follows:

Est-ce que son neveu est très amusant?

If the latter formation is correct, I would like an explanation as to why? I know the "est-ce que" is essentially translated into "Is...? So if the latter is translated would it not be translated as: "is his nephew is amusing?"

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The simplest way to convert your sentence into a question is to write:

Son neveu est-il très amusant ?

The form starting with est-ce que is however more common in spoken French so is indeed:

Est-ce que son neveu est très amusant ?


I know the "est-ce que" is essentially translated into "Is...?

That's obviously not a word by word translation.

So if the latter is translated would it not be translated as: "is his nephew is amusing?"

No. The first variant I gave which is closer to that English sentence doesn't duplicate the verb: Son neveu est-il amusant?

To better understand how this is built, you might consider est-ce que… to mean something like "is it true that…" leading to a form where the verb is present in the second part of the sentence:

Is it true that his nephew is very amusing?

  • I like "Is it true that" as a landing point when first reading a sentence. After all, the unfortunate fact is that French learners hoping to make English inversions out of « est-ce que » questions can't possibly know what word to use there until they read the rest of the sentence and parse the main verb (it could be "are", "has", "have", "will", etc.!). – Luke Sawczak May 12 '17 at 2:17
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In french "Est-ce que" is related to direct interrogation. You could say "Je me demande si son neveu est très amusant." which is indirect interrogation because the question is dependent of the expression "Je me demande si".

"Est-ce que" comes exactly to replace this expression and install direct interrogation (More used orally)

Je ne sais pas si son neveu est amusant.

Je me demande si son neveu est amusant.

Est-ce que son neveu est amusant ?

Another way to ask it directly to someone could be "Vous pensez que son neveu est amusant ?"

Even as a native i'm not sure i'm able to fully answer your question (maybe a french teacher could)

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One should not think of "Est-ce que" as the equivalent of the "is" in English, it leads to grammar mistakes. The equivalent of "Is he here?" is "Est-il là ?".

An equivalent of "Est-ce qu'il est là ?" would be "Is it true that he is here?", which does not sound great in English.

I think the best way for the use of "Est-ce que" is to remember the following rule: "Est-ce que + [affirmation you want to question]". That's the simplest thing in the world, and that's why it is much used by French people.

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Short answer : yes, in French, "Est-ce que... " translates to "is" as in "is ...?"

Your assumption was correct.

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    I'm afraid answering this part of the question is beyond my understanding of french (which is my native language btw), and would require extended knowledge of the language's History. – Sclrx May 12 '17 at 9:17

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