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Today I was sitting on a bench in the Public Garden in the city of Boston when a beautiful girl and her boyfriend sat down beside me, speaking French. Simultaneously I noticed there were six or seven other people around, taking photos and feeding ducks, all speaking French.

I ended up asking the guy next to me in English, but what I had wanted to say was:

Pourquoi est-ce qu'il y a tant de gens là qui parlent français aujourd'hui?

I was really uncertain of the word order, in terms of where to put and aujourd'hui.

Was I right?

  • The order is good, but It would be better to say "Pourquoi y a-t-il tant de gens ici qui parlent français aujourd'hui ?". And even here, having a temporal AND spatial precisions seems a bit "heavy" I would certainly remove "ici" and keep it implicit to lighten the sentence. – mveroone Aug 23 '13 at 8:55
  • A link on when to use "est-ce que" vs. subject-verb inversion : grammaire.reverso.net/3_1_27_est-ce_que.shtml – mveroone Aug 23 '13 at 9:35
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Yes, the word order is correct. The complement of time has to be at the end of the sentence. The complement of place has can be just after gens and before the phrase that qualifies it, or it can be part of the second clause: “Pourquoi est-ce qu'il y a tant de gens qui parlent français ici aujourd'hui?”. I can't explain why these locations work and others don't.

The word should be ici instead. It's happening here, not there.

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    I was under the impression is used to mean here in most casual speech...I hear Je suis là very often. Am I misunderstanding? Also, is there a typo? You wrote "it can be part of the ." – temporary_user_name Aug 23 '13 at 3:23
  • @Aerovistae I don't know what happened, I restored the missing fragment. Être là is an idiom, meaning to be present. There can be ambiguity as to whether something is far away to be instead of ici, but I can't think of a case where would be more casual and ici more formal. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Aug 23 '13 at 6:57
  • So-- the moral of the story is I can say here, or can't? It seems to me that this idiomatic usage is approximately correct here-- "Why are there many people present who speak French?" – temporary_user_name Aug 23 '13 at 7:35
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    @Aerovistae You have to say ici if you're in the park and refering to the people around you. On the other hand, if you were talking about it after leaving the park, you'd have to use or là-bas (“Je me demande pourquoi il y avait tant de gens qui parlaient français là-bas tout à l'heure*”). At least in France, I don't know if it's different in Québec. Oh, and why là-bas and not ? I'd have to think about it. – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Aug 23 '13 at 7:42
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    Intuitivement j'emploie ici si je suis inclus dans le lieu (ou le groupe) dont il est question, sinon le s'impose. – cl-r Aug 23 '13 at 8:25

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