Comment ça se fait ? / Comment se fait-il que... ? = How come? / How is it that...?

The expression How come? can be expressed in different ways in French, depending on the level of speech as well as whether it's followed by a conjugated verb or not.

How come?

Elle est déprimée. - Comment ça se fait?
She is depressed. - How come?

Elle est déprimée. - Comment cela se fait-il ?
She is depressed. - How come?

Note that to express How come? on its own, there are two ways:

- The unformal, familiar phrase Comment ça se fait ?
OR
- the more elegant, formal Comment cela se fait-il ?
Note the use of inverted question form to emphasise the elegant structure.

 

How come [something happens]? / How is it that [something happens]? 

Comment ça se fait qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?

Comment se fait-il qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?

Comment ça se fait que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus?
How come you all have blue eyes?

Comment se fait-il que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus ?
How come you all have blue eyes?

Note that to express how come / how is it that ...?, followed by a conjugated verb in French, you can either use:

- the more familiar Comment ça se fait que ... ?
OR
- the more elegant Comment se fait-il que ... ?
Note 
the use of inverted question form to emphasise the elegant structure.

ATTENTION:
In both cases, the conjugated verb after que will be in Le Subjonctif Présent or Passé.

Note that Comment cela se fait que ... ? can be heard sometimes, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct this form is by using the inversion -il, and NOT cela.
Same issue with Comment cela se fait-il que ... ? which is simply redundant, as it literally means How come this that ...?

 

Read: how to conjugate the subjunctive for regular verbs.

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Comment ça se fait que tu parles français? 
How come you speak French?


Comment se fait-il que tu parles français?
How come you speak French?


Comment ça se fait que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus?
How come you all have blue eyes?


Comment se fait-il qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?


Elle est déprimée. - Comment cela se fait-il ?
She is depressed. - How come?


Comment se fait-il que vous ayez tous les yeux bleus ?
How come you all have blue eyes?


Elle est déprimée. - Comment ça se fait?
She is depressed. - How come?


Comment ça se fait qu'elle soit si méchante?
How come she is so mean?


Q&A Forum 5 questions, 17 answers

UmiC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

the usage of l'indicatif after "que" for "comment ça se fait que"

Bonjour,

Recently, I saw a video by a French prof saying that we use l'indicatif after the pronom relatif "que" in "comment ça se fait que" for an informal conversation.

Is it correct?

Thank you very much for your response!!!

Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Umi,

In my opinion you would use:

the indicative after ‘Comment ça se fait que ...’ 

which is a lower register to the more elegant

‘ Comment se fait-il que ...‘ which will be followed by the subjunctive.

CécileKwiziq team member

Hi Umi,

Yes, you have to use ‘que’ after ‘comment ça se fait’ or ‘comment se fait-il’ -

Comment ça se fait que vous arrivez en retard ?= How come (that) you are arriving late?

In English it has disappeared but very much essential in French...

UmiC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Bonjour Cécile,

Thank you very much for your response.

Sorry!! I think I didn't explain well for the question I had.

My question was le subjonctif vs l'indicatif after the pronom relatif "que" for "Comment ça se fait que..."

It seems that we must use le subjonctif, however, I saw a video by a French professeur saying that l'indicatif is used in an informal conversation.

For example, "Comment ça se fait que t'es encore en retard ?"

Instead of, "Comment ça se fait que tu sois encore en retard ?"

Thanks very much!!!

umi

the usage of l'indicatif after "que" for "comment ça se fait que"

Bonjour,

Recently, I saw a video by a French prof saying that we use l'indicatif after the pronom relatif "que" in "comment ça se fait que" for an informal conversation.

Is it correct?

Thank you very much for your response!!!

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JohnC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

How come?

To the question (How come) Pauline porte cette robe? My answer 'Comment cela se fait-il que....' is rejected for 'Comment ca se fait'. Yet in the lesson we are told that my answer is the more 'elegant' French. Please explain.
Asked 1 year ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

If I may add to this debate -

Comment (cela)se fait-il que Pauline porte cette robe? 

Comment ça se fait que Pauline porte cette robe ?

Pauline porte cette robe, comment ça se fait ?

are all  correct, the first one sounds more elegant and stilted to me .

In spoken French you would use the latter two.

Hope this helps!

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi John, 

if you examine the lesson carefully you will see toward the end that the correct answer is:

Comment se fait-il que.... OR Comment ça se fait que...

The answer "comment cela se fait-il..." is grammatically not correct even though sometimes used colloquially.

-- Chris (not a native speaker). 

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

I realize that in the beginning of the lesson it seems to say that "comment cela se fait-il?" is more elegant. However this isn't born out later and i. The examples. 

I guess this should be clarified in the lesson. 

-- Chris. 

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
I think the point is that "comment cela se fait-il?"  is used on its own, not when followed by que ...
ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Yes, I know. But that needs to be stated more clearly. 

AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
OK, but I thought the lesson was quite clear on the distinction between the phrase on its own, and when followed by a conjugated verb.

How come?

To the question (How come) Pauline porte cette robe? My answer 'Comment cela se fait-il que....' is rejected for 'Comment ca se fait'. Yet in the lesson we are told that my answer is the more 'elegant' French. Please explain.

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JenniferC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Comment ça se fait que v comment cela se fait que?

Are either of these forms strictly correct, or is comment se fait-il que the more orthodox. A bit confused.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member
Bonjour Jennifer !

You wouldn't say "Comment cela se fait que" because "cela" is actually more elegant, "higher standard" than "ça".
Therefore, when you choose to use "cela" you will also use the more elegant question form that is the inverted form in French:
"Comment cela se fait-il que ?"
And in the elegant form, you can also choose to drop "cela" altogether, as it's repeated with "il":
"Comment se fait-il que ?" 

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Comment ça se fait que v comment cela se fait que?

Are either of these forms strictly correct, or is comment se fait-il que the more orthodox. A bit confused.

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AurélieKwiziq team member

Johnny asked: "How come "Comment cela se fait" is wrong?"

Bonjour Johnny !

"Comment cela se fait que ... ?" can indeed be used by some French people, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct the elegant form is through the use of the inversion "-il", and NOT cela.

You can also encounter  "Comment cela se fait-il que ... ?" which is simply redundant, as it literally means "How come this that ...?"

However, given the fact that some people do use that incorrect form, I decided to change our marking to Half Correct, as we still aim to teach the correct French ;)

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Asked 3 years ago
AurélieKwiziq team member

Bonjour Johnny !

"Comment cela se fait que ... ?" can indeed be used by some French people, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct the elegant form is through the use of the inversion "-il", and NOT cela.

You can also encounter  "Comment cela se fait-il que ... ?" which is simply redundant, as it literally means "How come this that ...?"

However, given the fact that some people do use that incorrect form, I decided to change our marking to Half Correct, as we still aim to teach the correct French ;)

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

Johnny asked: "How come "Comment cela se fait" is wrong?"

Bonjour Johnny !

"Comment cela se fait que ... ?" can indeed be used by some French people, however it's grammatically incorrect as the way to construct the elegant form is through the use of the inversion "-il", and NOT cela.

You can also encounter  "Comment cela se fait-il que ... ?" which is simply redundant, as it literally means "How come this that ...?"

However, given the fact that some people do use that incorrect form, I decided to change our marking to Half Correct, as we still aim to teach the correct French ;)

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

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AlmutC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Comment ça se fait qu'il faille se subjonctif avec cette construction?

(Sorry, couldn't resit.) Into which category does this example fall. It is obviously not a conjunction that triggers the subjonctif here and I also don't see any of the verbs that normally ask for subjonctif - or anything else I've encountered so far with respect to the subjonctif.
Asked 3 years ago
AlmutC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Sorry, typo: "Comment ça se fait qu'il faille Le subjonctif avec cette construction?"
ChristopherC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Hint: "fait que"
AlmutC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thank you, Christopher. I googled the expression and found this: http://bdl.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/bdl/gabarit_bdl.asp?id=3650 However, I have the impression that it is mostly the first case (faire que + indicatif) that is applicable here. Is it because it is a question that it turns into subjonctif?
ChristopherC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
I'm not a teacher but I would say because it expresses doubt/uncertainty. One of the triggers for subjunctive is the lack of certainty (but there are always exceptions. It's covered a lot in the B2 level tests. Other triggers are emotions, necessity, possibility, wants/desires. You can find great examples here and on https://www.lawlessfrench.com/.
AlmutC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
Thank you, Christopher, for the link to https://www.lawlessfrench.com. I found many interesting things there! Just not the answer to my question. But I'll keep searching... :-)
ChristopherC1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor
I would not lose sleep over the subjunctive if you're not at an advanced level. It's not always evident because there are many situations that cause it to be used. French speakers will know when you missed one and they will praise you when you get it right. I've been working on it for 5 years and it's just now starting to make sense to me. For now all you need to know is there has to be a "que" and from that you should add one of the conditions that requires subjunctive until you master that particular condition. Kwiziq is great at teaching this as it will do exactly what I described above. For example, in my current tests I've been drilled repeated on il faut que to the point I dream about it. I still don't quite understand your original question, it's not clear what you're asking is causing the subjunctive but just the fact that it's posting a question implies uncertainty which normally requires subjunctive. Good luck

Comment ça se fait qu'il faille se subjonctif avec cette construction?

(Sorry, couldn't resit.) Into which category does this example fall. It is obviously not a conjunction that triggers the subjonctif here and I also don't see any of the verbs that normally ask for subjonctif - or anything else I've encountered so far with respect to the subjonctif.

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