4

I have heard people use "que" in place of "qu'est-ce que", for example "Que fais-tu ?" and "Qu'est-ce que tu fais ?". Is this difference in formality, or situation? Can they be used interchangeably?

8

They are equivalent in meaning. The form with the subject and verb inverted is more formal.

In general, the order of question formality from most to least looks like this:

  1. Subject-verb inversion

    Dors-tu ? Que fais-tu ? Fais-tu quelque chose ?

  2. Relative clause

    Est-ce que tu dors ? Qu'est-ce que tu fais ? Est-ce que tu fais quelque chose ?

  3. Intonation alone

    Tu dors ? Tu fais quoi ? Tu fais quelque chose ?

Note that to all appearances, qu'est-ce and que fais-tu have the exact same syntax. But in practice, est-ce que and qu'est-ce que each function more or less as a unit.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.