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Reading Registres de langue en français I see ...

La forme interrogative directe inversée :
D’où m’appelles-tu ?
Pour : « D’où est-ce que tu m’appelles ? »

... is listed as "Registre soutenu".

It's what I learned in school though. Should one not use it in conversation?

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    If you are using vous for the addressee, it would seem appropriately formal. However, your example sounds a bit unnatural with a tu for France French. – GAM PUB Sep 23 '17 at 17:58
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It is not necessary to use it in conversation because it means the same thing and some people might not understand the "Registre soutenu".

The "Registre soutenu" and "la forme interrogative directe inversée" are generally used to talk with people with whom you have professional relationships.

In everyday life you can use the casual register and form.

  • So would you honestly prefer to ask "D'ou est-ce que tu viens?" rather than "D’où viens-tu" (because someone might not understand the latter, or because it sounds too formal)? – ChrisW Sep 19 '17 at 13:44
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    I would honestly prefer to ask "D'ou est-ce que tu viens?" rather than "D'où viens-tu" because it sound too formal for a casual french (everyone should understand this one because it's an easy one). For example if you are talking to a person you don't know or a high-ranking person you'll have to say "D'où venez-vous" to be more polite. – Arnaud Pradier Sep 19 '17 at 13:55
  • "D'où tu m'appelles ?" is also very common. Not "soutenu" but very often used orally. Additionally (but this remark is subjective), "D'où m'appelles-tu ?" is understable by most people and does not sound necessarily "soutenu" (just good and short). – lemon Sep 19 '17 at 14:11
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An subjective answer as I have no references to prove it.

Surely both the link indicated in the question and the answer from Arnaud Pradier are the good one.

But in a conversation (as asked in the question) and in most contexts (home, work, etc.), nowadays, people won't formalize about these variations and they will all be equally understood.

D’où m’appelles-tu ?

D’où est-ce que tu m’appelles ?

D'où tu m'appelles ?

Tu m'appelles d'où ?

  • Do you know why it's called soutenu? I would have thought it normal, courant. Perhaps it is just in contrast with "D’où est-ce que" which is less soutenu? Maybe its being shorter makes it sound more abrupt, more severe? – ChrisW Sep 19 '17 at 16:36
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    @ChrisW, again surely personal (not a general rule at all), but my feeling is often "short is good" and lighter, which does not mean abrupt or severe at all. And to my ears "est-ce que" is long, not so nice and can be repetitive (imagine a list of questions with "est-ce que"). – lemon Sep 19 '17 at 17:01

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