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Le Blog: Lingual Links

By angelaluke, Mar 30 2016 01:44PM


The expression 'est-ce que' came up today in our French conversation groups. These three little words are so small and mean so much. I am often asked what 'est-ce que' actually means. Well, literally the expression means 'is it that...' which is not really that helpful! It is more useful to look at the function of the expression. 'Est-ce que' serves to introduce a question, which by default means that you are expecting an answer. Therefore as soon as the person you are talking to hears 'est-ce que', they are hooked in and ready to reply. This is particularly handy if you are in a noisy environment or if you are unconfident about your spoken French and so speaking softly. 'Est-ce que' is also useful as it means that the rest of the question follows the usual word order of a statement; no need to invert the subject and verb or to raise the tone of your voice to indicate you'd like an answer. 'Est-ce que' can also be combined with other question words such as 'pourquoi'. For example, pourquoi est-ce que vous êtes ici? And n'oublions pas that if someone says, 'est-ce que' to you, they are also expecting a reply. My tongue in cheek advice at this point is, if you are not entirely sure of the question, to reply 'oui', as they are probably asking you something pleasant like 'est-ce que vous voudriez encore du vin?' or a pleantry such as 'est-ce que vous êtes ici en vacances?'... Any queries, don't forget to use our website panic button. A plus, Angela

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