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I read the following sentence:

Pourquoi la nature est-elle polluée ?

But I think the subject here is la nature and the verb is est, with polluée is an adjective.

So the following sentence should be fine:

Pourquoi est la nature polluée ?

But then why is it transformed into est-elle and what is the difference between the two sentences?

marked as duplicate by aCOSwt, Luke Sawczak, Community Nov 29 '18 at 12:57

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • @aCOSwt Thanks for pointing it out. Is it considered a duplicate here if the question and answers are written in different languages? Sorry, I just started to learn French this week, and don't understand what is written there yet. – Blaszard Nov 29 '18 at 12:50
  • Try the one above, which I wrote in English. It's hard to find existing answers on language SEs, since the grammar questions are almost always addressed through random specific sentences people find, but this one is a surprisingly exact match :) – Luke Sawczak Nov 29 '18 at 12:59
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    @LukeSawczak Yes and I was actually trying to close the question, only found that it had just got closed 20 seconds ago. The linked one is the great answer, thanks. – Blaszard Nov 29 '18 at 13:09
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You can't construct a "why" sentence in French exactly like you do in English.

It's actually pretty similar if you look at it the right way:

Is nature polluted? = La nature est-elle polluée ?

Why [is nature polluted]? = Pourquoi [la nature est-elle polluée] ?

It works the same way with the other ways to ask a question in French:

Est-ce que la nature est polluée ? → Pourquoi [est-ce que la nature est polluée] ?

La nature est polluée ? → Pourquoi [la nature est polluée] ?

So a "why" question in French is just a normally constructed question with a "pourquoi" in front of it.

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I found out that if the subject is NOT a pronoun, you must add the pronoun of the subject as well as the subject itself. In this case, since the la nature is the subject but not is a pronoun, you must add elle, a pronoun for the third-person singular (female).

So for example, if the subject is a pronoun, you can just invert the subject and verb:

Vous parlez italien.

Parlez-vous italien?

But in the following case, you need to add a pronoun:

La petite fille veut un vélo.

La petite fille veut-elle un vélo?


Source: https://www.dummies.com/languages/french/how-to-form-a-question-in-french-using-inversion/

  • Note that la petite fille veut un vélo ? is actually common in spoken French. The interrogative intonation is enough to make clear it is a question. – jlliagre Nov 29 '18 at 13:19

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