Inversion with je

Inversion avec le pronom « je »

Inversion - French word order
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Inversion with the first person singular je is a little trickier than with other subject pronouns. It’s also very formal and therefore rare, so one of those grammar concepts you need to recognize but not necessarily use.

Regular -er Verbs

The je conjugation of -er verbs normally ends in e instable, but when it’s inverted, this is no longer the case: -e must be pronounced, and this is indicated by the addition of an accent. Traditionally, this was an acute accent (é).

Par exemple…

Pensé-je vraiment qu’il chante bien ? Do I really think he sings well?
Parlé-je trop fort ? Am I speaking too loudly?

However, since the final letter in this construction is always pronounced [ɛ], in 1990 the Conseil supérieur de la langue française recommended using the more accurate grave accent (è) instead. So today, both accents are allowed.

Pensè-je vraiment qu’il chante bien ? Do I really think he sings well?
Parlè-je trop fort ? Am I speaking too loudly?

In addition, the e instable at the end of je is mute, so the pronunciation is in effect pensèj [pã sɛʒ] and chantèj [ʃã tɛʒ].

Other Verbs

Among verbs whose je conjugation doesn’t end in -e, inversion is only allowed with 10 very common ones:

allerto go vais-je
avoirto have ai-je
devoirto have to dois-je
direto say / tell dis-je
êtreto be suis-je
faireto make / do fais-je
pouvoirto be able to puis-je*
savoirto know sais-je
voirto see vois-je
vouloirto want veux-je

Par exemple…

Ai-je bien compris ? Have I understood correctly?
Dois-je tout faire moi-même ? Must I do everything myself?

* Puis is a special conjugation of pouvoir that is found today only in je inversion.

Introduction: Inversion with pronouns

 Related Lessons

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French inversion

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