Interrogative Adverbs

French interrogative adverbs
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Adverbes interrogatifs

When, where, why, how? Use interrogative adverbs to ask these informational questions.

Par exemple…

Où est-ce qu’il travaille ?   Where does he work?
Quand vas-tu partir ?   When are you going to leave?

Characteristics of Interrogative Adverbs

  1. Ask for specific information
  2. May be used with est-ce que or with inversion
  3. Can be used in indirect questions
  4. Are invariable

French Interrogative Adverbs

In everyday French, there are five interrogative adverbs.

1) Combien (de)

Combien means "how many?" or "how much?" When followed by a noun, it requires the preposition de.

– Je vais acheter des pommes ?
– Combien ?
  – I’m going to buy some apples.
– How many?
Combien de temps avez-vous ?   How much time do you have?

2) Comment

Comment usually means "how?"

Comment va-t-il ?   How is he doing?
Comment as-tu fait ça ?   How did you do that?

In certain situations, comment means "what?"

Comment ? Je ne vous ai pas entendu.   What? I didn’t hear you.
Comment vous appelez-vous ?   What’s your name?

3) Où

As an interrogative adverb, means "where?"

Où veux-tu manger ?   Where do you want to eat?
Où est-ce qu’elle a trouvé ce sac ?   Where did she find this bag?

4) Pourquoi

Pourquoi means "why?"

Pourquoi êtes-vous partis ?   Why did you leave?
Pourquoi est-ce qu’ils sont en retard ?   Why are they late?

5) Quand

Quand means "when?"

Quand veux-tu te réveiller ?   When do you want to wake up?
Quand est-ce que Paul va arriver ?   When is Paul going to arrive?

 To be more specific, you can ask À quelle heure ? meaning “(At) what time?”

Indirect Questions

Interrogative adverbs can also be used in indirect questions, where the desire for information is found within a statement or command.

Par exemple…

Je ne sais pas combien il travaille.   I don’t know how much he works.
Je veux savoir comment il va.   I want to know how he’s doing.
J’ai oublié où tu vas.   I forgot where you’re going.
Je me demande pourquoi il a menti.   I wonder why he lied.
Dis-nous quand tu veux commencer.   Tell us when you want to start.

N’importe …

Comment, , and quand can be used after n’importe to form indefinite adverbial phrases – learn more.


Combien, , and quand can be preceded by prepositions.

Par exemple…

Pour combien de temps serez-vous en France ?   How long will you be in France?
Par où est-il venu ?   Which way did he come?
Depuis quand est-ce que tu travailles ici ?   Since when have you worked here?

Literary Interrogative Adverb

In formal French, such as literature, there’s a sixth interrogative adverb, que, meaning "why?"

Par exemple…

Que m’en serais-je étonné ?
(M. Thiry, Romans, nouvelles, contes, récits, p. 386)
  Why would I be surprised about it?
Qu’avait-elle besoin d’une casserole aussi grande, elle qui vivait toute seule ?
(Aymé, Gustalin, VI)
  Why did she need such a big pot, when she lived all alone?

 Related lessons

Learn Spanish En español

Learn Italian In italiano

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

French interrogative adverbs

Questions about French?

 Visit the Progress with Lawless French Q+A forum to get help from native French speakers and fellow learners.

More Lawless French

 Subscribe to my twice-weekly newsletter.

Support Lawless French

  This free website is created with love and a great deal of work.

If you love it, please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.

Your support is entirely optional but tremendously appreciated.

Leave a Reply