MindGarden
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When asking questions by inverting the pronoun and the verb, what would you do it your question involved a noun.

Eg, to ask "When was the rate of divorce the highest in Europe?"
would you say

a) Quand le taux de divorce a-il été le plus élevé en Europe?

or

b) Quand a le taux de divorce été le plus élevé en Europe?

Or

c) I really messed up and it's actually something completely different

Asking for a friend. Plz help.
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Anna Schoon
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(Original post by MindGarden)
When asking questions by inverting the pronoun and the verb, what would you do it your question involved a noun.

Eg, to ask "When was the rate of divorce the highest in Europe?"
would you say

a) Quand le taux de divorce a-il été le plus élevé en Europe?

or

b) Quand a le taux de divorce été le plus élevé en Europe?

Or

c) I really messed up and it's actually something completely different

Asking for a friend. Plz help.
Your first answer, (a), is almost correct, (b) is wrong.

Your answer (a) should read: Quand le taux de divorce a-t-il été le plus élevé en Europe? You need the -t- there for pronounciation purposes.

Basically, the rule for questions is this:

Only the subject pronoun moves, nothing else, as you will see from the examples below. The verb and its subject pronoun are linked with a hyphen. (In the examples, the subject pronoun is underlined for clarity.)

Vous venez. → Venez-vous?
Tu te lèveras. → Te lèveras-tu?
C'est vrai. → Est-ce vrai?

In compound tenses, the subject pronoun follows the auxiliary verb:

Comment tu as fait ça. → Comment as-tu fait ça?
Ils n'avaient pas compris. → N'avaient-ils pas compris?

Note in the above examples that only the subject pronoun has moved, everything else (such as the reflexive pronoun te and the negative ne) stays in the same place.

The difficulty arises when you need to ask questions with subjects that are not pronouns, such as the name of a person. There are two options:

a) In very simple questions with an interrogative word, if the subject falls at the end of the question and there is no ambiguity, you can place the subject after the verb. Again, the subject of the verb has been underlined for clarity.

Comment vont tes parents? À quelle heure arrivent tes amis?

Note that this does not work for questions without an interrogative word, because the structure would be ambiguous.

So you cannot ask: "Viennent tes amis?"; you have to use the structure set out below.

b) In questions without an interrogative word, you will need to insert the subject pronoun after the verb, leaving the full subject where it is. So you repeat the subject with its pronoun:

Tes amis viennent. → Tes amis viennent-ils?
Ton fils veut encore jouer. → Ton fils veut-il encore jouer?
Tes parents vont t'acheter une voiture. → Tes parents vont-ils t'acheter une voiture?

In more complex questions with interrogative words, the structure is the same. The interrogative words precede the whole question:

Pourquoi tes parents vont-ils t'acheter une voiture?
À quoi ton fils veut-il encore jouer?

Note: When making inversions with the pronouns il/elle, a hyphenated -t- is added after a verb if it ends in a vowel sound, to make pronunciation easier.

Thus: A-t-il compris? Comprendra-t-elle?


(Quoted with permission from Essential French Grammar for the Sixth Form and Beyond by Caroline Tracey)
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