1st person singular inversion

Tom

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2018

4 replies

1st person singular inversion

From time to time, in literature, I come across forms such as "parlé-je" e.g.

"Pourquoi parlé-je de Victor Hugo?"

Is this interrogative form still in use. Is it ever used in speech (probably not) or is it reserved for literary use?

Tom

This question relates to:
French lesson "Forming inverted questions in Le Présent, special cases: puis-je, ai-je, suis-je"

Chris

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2018

13/12/18

Inversion-type questions are formal and, as you already suspected, mostly used in writing. There are, however, a handful of inverted questions which are used "as-is" in spoken French. For example: Comment vas-tu?

Tom

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2018

13/12/18

Hi Chris,

How formal is formal? Are you suggesting a formal interdiction of inverted forms in speech?

I must sound like a pompous idiot when  I habitually say:

"Puis-je avoir quelque chose" or "Combien dois-je" when asking for the bill, usually in the informal setting of a bar.

No one has ever commented on my pomposity. Are they just too polite?

Tom

Chris

Kwiziq community member

13 December 2018

13/12/18

It's perfectly ok. One would just notice that you're not a native French speaker, that's all. I guess it's about as "wrong" as saying "Could I trouble you to give me a BicMac, please?" when ordering at a MacDonald's :))))

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

14 December 2018

14/12/18

Hi Tom,

If I may add, to me someone using 'puis-je' in an informal verbal setting would be equivalent to an English person using, "One does this, and one does that ..." in a royal kind of way.

So it does sound precious unless you are a member of the aristocracy and then it will be expected of you....

;-)

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