Forming inverted questions in Le Présent, special cases: puis-je, ai-je, suis-je

Simple Yes/No Questions

The forms je peux, je vais, je suis, j'ai can be inverted but these forms are rarely used nowadays, as they're considered very formal and old-fashioned:

Puis-je avoir le pain, s'il-vous-plaît?
May I have the bread, please?

Suis-je à la bonne adresse?
Am I at the right address?

Ai-je assez d'argent?
Do I have enough money?

Vais-je dans la bonne direction?
Am I going the right way?

Notice that je peux becomes irregular in the inverted form puis-je, probably to ease pronunciation. This structure is very formal as we stated before, so would only be used in polite contexts: the nearest English equivalent would be May I?

Note also that although it's rare to invert Je + verb to make a question, it does happen with some verbs.

 

More Complex Questions

You can also use all of the question words like Comment, Quand etc. at the beginning with puis-je, ai-je and suis-je:

Comment puis-je faire ça?
How can I do that?

Où suis-je?
Where am I?

 

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Suis-je à la bonne adresse?
Am I at the right address?


Vais-je dans la bonne direction?
Am I going the right way?


Où suis-je?
Where am I?


Comment puis-je faire ça?
How can I do that?


Puis-je avoir le pain, s'il-vous-plaît?
May I have the bread, please?


Ai-je assez d'argent?
Do I have enough money?


Q&A Forum 5 questions, 12 answers

WladuszkaC1

What's more common way to ask "can I"?

Asked 7 months ago
CécileKwiziq language super starCorrect answer

HI Wladuszka,

You could say 

‘Je peux vous aider?’ = Can I help you?

With your voice rising at the end to indicate that it is a question and not a statement... 

Take a look at the following lesson for more examples -

https://kwiziq.learnfrenchwithalexa.com/revision/grammar/three-simple-ways-to-ask-yes-no-questionsintonation-est-ce-que-nest-pas

Hope this helps!

 

WladuszkaC1

Opps, pressed Enter by accident :)So, what's less awkward way to ask "can I"?Est-ce que je peux...?Peut-on...?Anything else?

Wladuszka asked:View original

What's more common way to ask "can I"?

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TomC1

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

Asked 8 months ago
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?
TomC1

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

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 :))))
CécileKwiziq language super star

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....

;-)

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

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Ai-je assez d'argent ? Not why?

Inverted form of question. Is it for the purpose of pronunciation?
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Yellamaraju ! Could you clarify your question, as I'm not sure what you're getting at :) Merci !
Bonjour Aurélie ! Sorry, the later part of the question didn't come out in the print. Ai-je assez d'argent ? And not why. Is it for the purpose of pronunciation. ends with vowel and starts with vowel as in .
Ai-j'assez as it is done J'ai
AurélieKwiziq language super star
I understand your question now :) You never use ellision on pronouns in inverted structures. The ellision is between the subject pronoun and the verb following, but in the case of inversion, the verb is before, so there won't be any "visual" ellision, even though you will pronounce [jassez], you will not write "j'assez". I hope that's helpful!

Ai-je assez d'argent ? Not why?

Inverted form of question. Is it for the purpose of pronunciation?

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Missing exercises in this area?

It seems that I have only encountered exercises for "puis-je" and none for "suis-je" or "ai-je". Are there ones for the other cases? -- Chris.
Asked 2 years ago
AurélieKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Claus ! Indeed, we've focused the testing in that lesson on the more commonly used form "puis-je" which is also the trickiest one as it changes. However, I agree that we should also have questions on the other forms, and I've now added some to this lesson. Merci beaucoup et à bientôt !

Missing exercises in this area?

It seems that I have only encountered exercises for "puis-je" and none for "suis-je" or "ai-je". Are there ones for the other cases? -- Chris.

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Informal versions

If the questions in this lesson sound formal and old-fashioned, what are the less formal modern equivalents? Perhaps you could add them to the lesson?
Asked 3 years ago
LauraKwiziq language super star
Bonjour Joakim, There are three non-formal ways to ask questions in French: Asking yes/no questions with intonation, est-ce que, n'est-ce pas

Informal versions

If the questions in this lesson sound formal and old-fashioned, what are the less formal modern equivalents? Perhaps you could add them to the lesson?

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