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Getting started with French 2
Getting started with French 2

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8 Intonation

In conversational French you can ask a simple closed question – one which will lead to the answer oui (‘yes’) or non (‘no’) – by using the basic sentence form but changing your intonation.

Vous aimez le fromage. (Statement of fact; intonation goes down at end of sentence).

Vous aimez le fromage ? (Question; intonation goes up at end of sentence).

Such sentences have the same grammatical form as a straightforward affirmative statement, but when spoken the last syllable of the utterance is said on a high pitch to convey inconclusiveness, uncertainty or enquiry, thus inviting a response. This can also be heard in unfinished statements, and in exclamations of surprise, but is most frequently used to ask general questions. Only the higher pitch of the final syllable indicates to the listener that a question is being asked.

You can also add an interrogative word at the start of the question:

Qu’est-ce que vous aimez manger ? (What do you like to eat?)

The interrogative word makes it clear that the sentence is a question.

Activity 10

Listen to the recording and read the following dialogue at the same time. Pay particular attention to the intonation.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: lxf002_wk1_act_aud006.mp3
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Speaker 1:
Vous aimez le poisson ?
Speaker 2:
Assez, oui. J’aime bien le saumon.
Speaker 1:
Et les crustacés, vous aimez aussi ?
Speaker 2:
Ah ça, oui ! J’aime beaucoup, surtout le homard. J’adore le homard !
Described image
Figure 5 Un étalage de fruits de mer

Listen to the recording again, pause the recording and repeat each sentence trying to copy the intonation.


le saumon salmon

les crustace´s ( shellfish

le homard lobster


Check your pronunciation by listening to the recording and reading the dialogue out loud until you are confident.